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April Raptor Monitoring / Climbing Advisories Update

Hey Everyone -

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

Prairie falcons (PRFA) have selected nest sites and are incubating eggs. 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... So far the Balconies pair has been confirmed incubating eggs, and the Hawkins pair is finishing nest site selection. A third PEFA pair has been observed sporadically at Drywall Slide and appears to be occupying the area as a feeding territory. At present the following have been documented: 8 territories with PRFA pairs, 1 more territories with at least a single prairie falcon, and the 3 PEFA territories. These are listed below:

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

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

  • Pig Canyon
  • Little Pinnacles (Yaks)
  • North Balconies
  • Machete Ridge
  • 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

In general, PRFA activity this season seems to be proceeding normally in regards to annual occupancy and courtship schedules, though overall numbers of PRFA pairs are a bit lower than average. PEFA activity has also been observed at Little Pinnacles and the Reservoir, likely representing falcons from the Hawkins pair that are hunting for pigeons and other potential prey.

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 nesting activity has been confirmed yet.

Nests have been confirmed for other raptor species as well. These include 7 red-tailed hawk nests, 2 red-shouldered hawk nests, and an American kestrel nest. Cooper's and sharp-shinned hawks are active throughout the park along riparian corridors, and are beginning to focus on potential nesting territories for late-season nesting efforts. Great-horned owls have been heard vocalizing in Condor Gulch, Bear Gulch, the Pinnacles Campground, Pig Canyon, near Scout Peak, and near Machete Ridge. Long-eared owls have been observed at the north extent of the North Wilderness Trail.

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 Paul Johnson, Joseph Belli, Megan Gnekow, and Aly Schmidt are 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 Mike Shelley, Mike Baird, Jack Peabody, Dan Ryan, Brent Johnson, Arianna Punzalan, 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!

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


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