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Raptor and Closure Updates For February & March

Here is an update on raptor activity at the park in February and March as the breeding season develops.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) have reoccupied historical breeding areas and are selecting nest sites for laying and incubating eggs. So far, 10 PRFA pairs have been confirmed. Two PEFA pairs are occupying territories at Hawkins Peak and General Balconies. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guide to Pinnacles.

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
  • South Balconies: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Crowley Towers / North Balconies: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Little Pinnacles / Yaks / Yaks Wall: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Gargoyle / Piedras Bonitas Cliffs: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA pair confirmed
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA pair confirmed
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA pair confirmed
  • Drywall Slide: PRFA pair confirmed

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

  • Pig Canyon
  • Citadel
  • Scout Peak
  • Western Front
  • Discovery Wall
  • Frog / Hand
  • Pipsqueak Pinnacles
  • D. Soto Canyon
  • Guard Rock
  • Rocks West of Chalone Housing
  • NE Section 15
  • Marion Canyon / Narrows
  • North Wilderness Rock
  • South Wilderness Rock
  • Mating Rocks / Tugboat

PRFA pair occupancy is looking consistent with the 30-year average of 10 pairs for the park. A PRFA pair at the Gargoyle / Piedras Bonitas area (upstream behind the Reservoir) is particularly interesting, as the area has not been occupied or used for nesting in over ten years.

Please note that climbing and hiking advisories are in effect as of January 17th, 2017. 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 have also been quite active at the park. Red-shouldered and red-tailed hawks are beginning egg incubation at nest sites, and American kestrels are either choosing cavity sites for nests or already incubating eggs.

So far the 2017 breeding season has been great for our larger owl species, and we have confirmed 3 great horned owl nests, a barn owl nest, and 5 long-eared owl nests at this point. Long-eared owls are of particular interest as a California species of concern. They tend to reuse stick nests built in previous years by Cooper's or sharp-shinned hawks. Long-eared owls can be sensitive to too much disturbance, but staff and others can let me know if they'd like to see an active owl nest and I'd be happy to quietly show folks and talk about the birds at a safe distance from their nest sites. Here is a photo of a long-eared owl adult incubating eggs at one of this year's nests:

Log Earded Owl Bald Eagle #53

Another exciting observation involved a 3rd year bald eagle seen two days ago while I was conducting surveys along the South Wilderness Trail. I was able to get photos of the eagle in flight and it had blue wing tags, with "53" in black numerals on each tag:

I contacted Peter Sharpe with Institute For Wildlife Studies, and he confirmed that this female bald eagle was tagged on Santa Cruz Island in the Channel Islands on 2015 and had not been seen since then. Pretty cool to see that bird up at our park!

A big thanks to Emma Cox and Megan Gnekow for their ongoing and excellent raptor observations. Emma Cox continues to work with the raptor monitoring team for her second year at Pinnacles and will be actively conducting raptor surveys throughout the park. Megan Gnekow is also continuing her multi-year volunteering efforts to assist with raptor monitoring on weekends. Feel free to let any 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 give it to me or 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 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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