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Raptor Update - July 2006

Hey everyone!

Here is the raptor monitoring update for mid-June to mid-July.

The 2006 raptor monitoring season at Pinnacles is finally wrapping up, with most raptor nests having succeeded in producing fledglings. This has been the best Pinnacles raptor monitoring season on record in regards to confirmed breeding records, nest sites, and species diversity, with 62 breeding records and 58 nests confirmed this year representing 12 species of raptors.

Prairie falcons (PRFAs) and the peregrine falcon (PEFA) pair have ended their breeding efforts for the year, with 10 PRFA nests producing 32 fledglings, and 4 PRFA nests failing due to predation or abandonment. The PEFA nest at Hawkins successfully fledged 3 young falcons for the second consecutive year. Perhaps the two most noteworthy PRFA nests were in the Pipsqueak Pinnacles and Mating Rocks territories, both fledging young falcons for the first time during the 20-year span of the raptor monitoring project.

Please note that all climbing and hiking advisories have been ended for the rest of the year. Climbers did a great job of staying out of the advisory areas this season. Only 1 of the 4 PRFA nest failures this year: the Teapot Dome nest - was in a high visitor-use area, and likely failed due to predation. This suggests that the raptor advisories did succeed in minimizing visitor disturbance to nesting raptors. Thanks to all the park staff that diverted visitors from advisory areas, and reported incidents of climbers and hikers in advisory areas. I really appreciate the information and assistance!

In addition to prairie and peregrine falcon nests, 43 other raptor nests were confirmed this year, as well as an additional 4 breeding records (with fledglings discovered very soon after flying from nest sites). Record high nest numbers were confirmed for many species, including red-tailed hawks (7), red-shouldered hawks (5), Cooper's hawks (7), great-horned owls (2), and barn owls (3). Nest records for 2 species - long-eared owls and white-tailed kites represent the first confirmed breeding records for both species in the 20 years of the raptor monitoring project. 1 of the white-tailed kite nests, along the South Wilderness Trail, still has kite nestlings and likely represents a second attempt after fledging a clutch of young observed earlier in the season.

Another exciting discovery this year has been the confirmation of 2 active turkey vulture nests in the park, one discovered by Ben Nugent (of the IWS pig crew) high on the south side of Mt. Defiance, and the other discovered by Eric Temple and Brendan Lukas of the Trails crew on the west side summit of South Chalone Peak. Turkey vultures likely nest within the park every year, but their behavior is cryptic and their nests can be very remotely located. Both nests have 2 vulture young and represent the first active vulture nests confirmed at Pinnacles since 1984!

Thank you to all the staff that have continued to provide assistance to the raptor monitoring project throughout the season. I sincerely appreciate the raptor observations and wildlife cards, the trail sign assistance (thank you Lisa!), and the observations of visitors in advisory areas through the season. Your contributions as park staff have made possible the comprehensive breeding and nesting records that I have been able to confirm this year. I sincerely appreciate the support and interest!

If you have any observations within the park to report, or any raptor-related questions, please contact me through email or my work extension, 270. Thanks! I will be sending out a copy of the 2006 report on breeding raptors at Pinnacles within several weeks!

Gavin Emmons, Raptor Monitor
Pinnacles National Monument
5000 Highway 146
Paicines, CA 95043
(831) 389-4485 x270


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  • FREE Park Admission

    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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