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Raptor Monitor Report for February 2016

For those that don't know me, my name is Gavin Emmons and I am the program lead for raptor monitoring at Pinnacles National Park. Here is an update on raptor activity at the park in January and early February as the breeding season is starting up.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) have started reoccupying historical breeding areas and are actively defending territories and starting to inspect potential cliff cavity nest sites. So far, PRFA (2 pairs and 5 single birds) have been observed in 7 territories, and 2 PEFA pairs are occupying territories at Hawkins Peak and General Balconies. These are listed below:

  • Goat Rock / Resurrection Wall: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Teapot Dome / Tunnel / Egg: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA pair confirmed
  • General Balconies / Machete: PEFA pair confirmed
  • Crowley Towers: Single PRFA confirmed, pair likely
  • Citadel: Single PRFA confirmed, pair likely
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks: Single PRFA confirmed, pair likely
  • Willow Spring Slide: Single PRFA confirmed, pair likely
  • North Chalone Peak: Single PRFA confirmed, pair likely

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

  • Pig Canyon
  • North Balconies
  • South 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
  • NE Section 15
  • North Wilderness Rock
  • South Wilderness Rock

The following territories have not yet been monitored for falcon or other raptor activity:

  • Marion Canyon / Narrows
  • South Chalone Peak

So far, documented PRFA occupancy has been a bit lower at the beginning of the 2016 season compared to past years, but we will continue to conduct surveys to determine if PRFA pairs arrive late to currently unoccupied territories.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect as of January 19th, 2016. Posters have been placed on the bulletin board fixtures near the Juniper Canyon trailhead and the Moses Spring trailhead, and advisory signs have been placed near relevant climbing / off-trail hiking areas. Advisory handouts should be available in the Visitor Center and Visitor Contact Station, and are also available on the PINN website.

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, other raptor species are setting up breeding territories in and around the park as well. Red-shouldered hawks are vocalizing and beginning to build nest constructs in the Pinnacles Campground. Here is a photo of a red-shouldered hawk preparing a site near the campground overflow lot (on right).

A golden eagle pair has been observed in Grassy Canyon and near Drywall Slide, and a second pair has been rebuilding a stick nest on a eucalyptus tree just outside of the west side entrance of PINN along Highway 146. Here's a photo of the pair at the site (see above).

American kestrels pair are beginning to actively defend territories throughout the park, and great horned owls have been seen and heard vocalizing in Rose Canyon, Grassy Canyon, along the South Wilderness Trail, and in the Pinnacles Campground.

Note that Emma Cox has joined the raptor monitoring team for the 2016 season and will be actively conducting raptor surveys throughout the park. Feel free to let either of us know if you have any questions or observations to report.

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.

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me through email or call 831-389-4486 x276. Thanks!


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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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