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  • Raptor Closures Update - July, 2021

    The breeding raptor season is finally wrapping up at Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to provide a final update for 2021. All Raprot closures have been lifted.

2015 Raptor Monitoring Report & Climbing Advisories

For those who don't know me, my name is Gavin Emmons, and I have returned for a 13th 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 month.

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 tenth consecutive year at Hawkins and another that nested at Balconies 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. A third PEFA pair was briefly observed chasing pigeons at Drywall Slide. Additional surveys will help us determine if this pair was migrating through the park or may be preparing to occupy the Drywall territory. The first prairie falcons were confirmed at Resurrection Wall, Crowley Towers, and Egg Rock by the beginning of 2015. At present the following have been documented: 4 territories with PRFA pairs, 3 more territories with single prairie falcons, and the 3 PEFA territories. These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: PRFA pair
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair
  • General Balconies: PEFA pair
  • Crowley Towers: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Machete / Citadel: PRFA pair
  • Willow Spring Slide: Single PRFA, pair likely
  • Drywall Slide: PEFA pair
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair
  • NE Section 15: PRFA pair

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

  • Pig Canyon
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks)
  • South Balconies
  • North Balconies
  • Scout Peak
  • '''Western Front
  • Discovery Wall
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles
  • Frog / Hand
  • Piedras Bonitas / Gargoyle / Prescribed Burn Cliffs
  • 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 will likely have active falcon pairs that arrive later in the season by February or March. The territorial PEFA pair 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 20th. 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 month. 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, and in McCabe Canyon, perching in valley oaks and vocalizing, and beginning to add stick material to nest constructs. Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks are active throughout the park along riparian corridors. Owls have been quiet so far this season but will likely pick up as the breeding season proceeds. Great-horned owls have been heard vocalizing in Condor Gulch, Bear Gulch, the Pinnacles Campground, Pig Canyon, near Scout Peak, and near Machete Ridge.

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 Joseph Belli and Aly Schmidt will be part of the raptor monitoring team for 2015 and will be assisting with surveys. If you can't get a hold of me for questions, feel free to ask or pass along observations to them as well.

In addition, thanks to Paul Johnson, Sierra Willoughby, Lori Frusetta, Linda Regan, Dan Ryan, Jennie Jones, Mike Shelley, Brent Johnson, Danielle Powell, Rose Fielding, 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!

Pinnacles News

  • Raptor Closures Update - July, 2021

    The breeding raptor season is finally wrapping up at Pinnacles National Park and I wanted to provide a final update for 2021. All Raprot closures have been lifted.

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