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    Gavin Emmons announced today that most of the climbing restrictions have been lifted with the exception of parts of Machete Ridge.

Raptor Monitoring Update for May 2020

Hey Everyone -

The breeding raptor season is in full swing at Pinnacles National Park; here is an update on raptor activity through mid May 2020.

Prairie falcons (PRFA) and peregrine falcons (PEFA) are actively nesting in cliff cavity sites and are raising nestlings. Raptor advisories are in effect, and advisory signs are posted at Balconies, Hawkins Peak, and near Little Pinnacles / Yaks Wall. For current advisories in effect, refer to the Pinnacles raptor advisories page, the Friends Of Pinnacles closure page and feel free to ask me for further clarifications.

For the 2020 season, nine pairs of PRFA have been confirmed occupying territories, as well as four PEFA pairs in territories. Of these, seven PRFA pairs and all four PEFA pairs have nested this year. For information on territory locations and rock formations, refer to Brad Young's climber's guidebook to Pinnacles.

PRFA and PEFA breeding efforts for 2020 are listed below:

  • Resurrection Wall: PRFA nest, at least 3 nestlings
  • The Egg (on west side of High Peaks): PRFA pair confirmed, not nesting
  • Prescribed Burn Cliffs / Piedras Bonitas: PRFA pair confirmed, not nesting
  • South Balconies: PRFA nest, at least 2 nestlings, possible nest failure
  • Crowley Towers: PRFA nest, at least 3 PRFA nestlings
  • Citadel: PRFA nest, at least 2 nestlings
  • Willow Spring Slide: PRFA nest, nest failure
  • North Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, at least 3 nestlings
  • South Chalone Peak: PRFA nest, at least 4 nestlings
  • Hawkins Peak: PEFA nest, 4 nestlings
  • General Balconies: PEFA nest, 2 nestlings
  • South Chalone Peak: PEFA nest, nestlings likely
  • Frog / Hand: PEFA nest, 2 nestlings

As noted above, climbing and hiking advisories are in effect for the 2020 season. The official park website reflects current advisories in effect, as do the Friends of Pinnacles and Mud 'n Crud websites. Let me know if you have further questions.

See below for a gallery of some of the pictures I have been able to capture.

Highlights for cliff-cavity nesting falcons this year include:

  • 4 PEFA nesting pairs (as mentioned above)
    a record high documented at Pinnacles in the past 35 years of the monitoring program
  • Also of interest is the close proximity of two PRFA and PEFA nesting pairs, at South Chalone Peak and at Balconies.
    In some situations in previous years, PEFA pairs have apparently pushed PRFA pairs out of historical nesting territories, so it is intriguing to see at least certain situations where PRFA and PEFA pairs have been able to tolerate each other in close proximity of nesting efforts.

In addition to PRFA and PEFA, we have had a very productive breeding season for other nesting raptor species. In all we have confirmed 38 raptor nests for 11 species this year; these are listed below:

  • golden eagles: 1 nest
  • red-tailed hawks: 10 nests
  • red-shouldered hawks: 4 nests
  • white-tailed kites: 1 nest
  • American kestrels: 2 nests
  • Cooper's hawks: 3 nests
  • long-eared owls: 2 nests
  • great horned owls: 2 nests
  • barn owls: 2 nests

The confirmed white-tailed kite nest is noteworthy because we don't consistently have kites nesting at Pinnacles - the habitat at the park, and availability of California voles as the main prey source for white-tailed kites, is somewhat marginal.

It's always a treat to see owls nesting at Pinnacles, too, including long-eared owls, a California species of concern.

Nest records for the tree-nesting raptors in the park - including hawks and owls - provide us with valuable information on where these aerial predators are focusing their breeding efforts and give us important guidance data related to potential infrastructure development and management plans along riparian corridors and in bottomlands habitats.

This year several people are assisting with raptor monitoring at Pinnacles - Megan Gnekow, Mike Baird, and Joseph Belli. All of them have been volunteering with the condor and raptor monitoring programs for years, and their assistance in confirming raptor status at the park this year is greatly appreciated. I also want to thank the condor interns - Kaitlin Lopez and Isaac Henderson - for their observations of falcon nesting and other raptor activity in the High Peaks this season. We would not have been able to document the diversity and breadth of raptor nesting at Pinnacles this year without their combined expertise and passion.

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 or other observations, I would greatly appreciate it if you email me details including time, location, species, and details of activity observed.

Thanks, everyone - take care, stay safe, and stay tuned for the next monitoring update!

GAVIN EMMONS
Wildlife Specialist
5000 Highway 146, Paicines, CA 95043
831-389-4319
Pinnacles National Park


Pinnacles News

  • Most Climbing Areas Now Open

    Gavin Emmons announced today that most of the climbing restrictions have been lifted with the exception of parts of Machete Ridge.

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