South 0, North 2…

Observation date: 13 May 2016

After spending the first five months of the breeding season on the south side of Morro Rock which turned out to be very disheartening, we have moved to the north side for the last week or so. The south side female did not nest this year after fifteen seasons on Morro Rock. She should have nested two months ago, but as of yesterday, she was still breeding with her mate of eight seasons. Seeing this was all new for me.

Back to the north side which we have been observing paid off yesterday when two chicks appeared, all white and fluffy. I had been watching prey items being delivered into the eyrie for the past three weeks and knew the young would soon appear.

North side peregrine chicks Photo by Gordon Robb

North side peregrine chicks                                Photo by Gordon Robb

We know there are at least two and could be more. They appear to be around 25 to 26 days old. The mother is very protective and constantly chases everything that comes near. She is the only banded bird on Morro Rock. 23 R is her band. She fledged from Moss Landing Power Plant* in 2012. This is her second clutch at the “rock.”

Happy trails, Bob

* The Moss Landing Power Plant is a natural gas powered electricity generation plant located in Moss Landing, California, at the midpoint of Monterey Bay.

Possible reasons for no nesting.

  1. Fertility, either in the female or male.
  2. Age of female is 16 years. Normal lifespan of a peregrine is 17 to 20 years in the wild.
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Wren, our first scholarship student…

Observation date: 10 May 2016

To those of you who contributed to our $1,000 PCPW Scholarship, we have great news about our recipient. We met with Wren Thompson of Los Osos, CA after she returned from her semester of study in Ireland. Now we want you to meet her too. Maybe you thought we gave our scholarship to a bird… Well, in a way we did!

Bob and Wren Photo by Heather O'Connor

Bob and Wren                                            Photo by Heather O’Connor

Wren Thompson’s parents, Dean and Staci,  met at Morro Rock and have always been focused on biology, birds and herbs, so their children’s names became Wren and Merlin. Dean, now a teacher and counselor at Camp Keep, was a CalPoly Biology student and worked at the Morro Rock peregrine site. Many years ago when peregrines were very scarce, it seems that Arab sheiks would pay $50,000 for one falcon. He was one of the students who volunteered to spend overnights on the top of the “Rock” to guard and protect them.

Wren is a California Polytechnic student who will receive her Bachelor of Biological Sciences in Wildlife Biology in Spring 2017! She currently is working on Ornithology, Field Botany, and doing research on bird behavior as well as analyzing data on coral populations from the Florida keys.

When I asked her in an email, she wrote that  she loves “working with animal behavior in particular, since I feel like it gives us a whole depth of understanding of animals that we would otherwise miss out on by assuming they communicate and prioritize things the same way as humans… I love the study of biology in general because learning about life and the things around us that we generally take for granted as common…because likely as not, those “common” things have some amazing adaptations that have let them take over the way they have.”

After graduation Wren plans “to do some sort of travel out of the area, find a job doing natural history work or possibly behavioral research in the field, depending on what I manage to find out there! I’m mostly excited to find out what the possibilities will be.”

Recently, she visited Morro Rock and the peregrine falcons with her Ornithology class.

Peregrine falcon in the "Mouth" Photo by Wren Thompson

Peregrine falcon in the “Mouth”                                     Photo by Wren Thompson

This summer she’ll  probably be doing more bird behavior work both in the field and working on her senior project dealing with broken wing behaviors.  She’ll  be helping out at Camp KEEP while they do migrant education.

In my opinion, she’s a most enthusiastic person to pursue the fascinating study of biology. She’s a fine thinker and excellent student. We are so glad to have helped her on her way.

You are invited to contribute to our Scholarship Fund for a CalPoly Biology student. We are a 501(c)(3), nonprofit educational organization. Your contribution will be a charitable donation.

Please use the “DONATE” button
or mail a check made out to:

Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch   or   PCPW
765 Center Court
Morro Bay, CA 93442   USA

Please write with “Scholarship Fund” on the Memo line

Another student would be so grateful for the help… As you know, college is so costly these days. A giant “thank you” to those of you who did make contributions last year!

Heather and Wren Photo by Bob Isenberg

Heather and Wren                                 Photo by Bob Isenberg

Any encouraging comments you may make will be passed on to her.

Happy trails, Bob and Heather

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Observation date: 11 April 2016

Things are just in a tizzy here at Morro Rock. I can’t give the answers to many visitors we get here because when it comes to nesting, I just don’t know.

Both pairs of falcons normally start nesting in the first two to three weeks of March. Here we are in the middle of April and both male and female are still breeding and flying around. No sign of incubation. However, on the south side, the female has been frequenting the “waterfall” hole. At times, she will spend an hour or more inside, which would be normal egg laying procedure, but this has been going on for a month and a half.

Going into the waterfall hole  Photo by Cleve Nash

Going into the waterfall hole                        Photo by Cleve Nash

The north side pair seems to be doing the same, although I have not seen them choose a nest site as yet.

There are so many variables… weather with “El Niño,” old age* with the south side female, male potency, etc. I just don’t have an answer yet.

Happy trails, Bob

* The female is now 16 years old and in her 15th breeding season.

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Fits and starts…

Observation date: 3 March 2016

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch has been off line for an unusual amount of time and not because we don’t want to. Most of the problems were not something that we could control.

"Rough Bar"   Photo by Bob Isenberg

“Rough Bar”                          Photo by Bob Isenberg

The gate to the south side of Morro Rock is normally closed during high surf advisories which we have had many of. Ca State Parks and Harbor Patrol thought it better to keep it closed all together through the winter. This made it very difficult for us. It seems that everybody has a key, but the dog catcher and me. Packing up all the equipment and paraphernalia a quarter of a mile to entertain the public does not work well at seventy five with neuropathy.

Needless to say, we have gone though fits and starts with all of the agencies, but to no avail.

Any way, you can see what I’ve done in these photos. I’ve had the trike for a couple of years and just bought the trailer so I can get back out. And none too soon either.

Arrival  Photo by Bob Isenberg

Arrival                                         Photo by Bob Isenberg

All set up     Photo by Bob Isenberg

All set up                                    Photo by Bob Isenberg


A few of the many peregrine watchers at Morro Rock                        Photo by Heather O’Connor

I expect her to start egg laying in a week or ten days. Today breeding was heavy. About 40 to 45 minutes apart. I believe she has stopped hunting, since he has been bringing in all the prey items for both to eat.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: The south side gate has been open a total of 10 days since January 1st.

Heading home  Photo by Heather O'Connor

Heading home after a successful day                                        Photo by Heather O’Connor

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Winter Bird Festival…

Observation date: 19 January 2016

Throngs of birders, twitchers and photographers were on hand for the twentieth Annual Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival which takes place every year on the Martin Luther King holiday.

High surf breaking on the north jetty  Photo by Heather O'Connor

High surf breaking on the north jetty                                              Photo by Heather O’Connor

Along with the high surf crashing against the high jetty making spectacular photography, the peregrine falcons of the south side put on a show that not all got to see. The timing was the key.

Bob Isenberg set up early for the MBWBFestival visitors  Photo by Heather O'Connor

Bob Isenberg set up early for the visitors               Photo by Heather O’Connor

During intermittent rain showers, we were set up at 7:55 AM.

At 8:35AM, the tiercel made a spectacular kill for the few that were there at that time to see. He launched off his highest perch, the throne, wings rapidly beating while in a 45 degree stoop down to the wave tops, then leveled out to one foot above the deck in a high speed glide, no longer beating his wings.

Flocks of shore birds at waters’ edge are just a millisecond away. Then bang! It’s all over for a western sandpiper. This complete scenario from stoop and then back to the rock took no more than thirty seconds.

Peregrine over a rock face Photo by Cleve Nash

Peregrine over a rock face                                         Photo by Cleve Nash

Bird groups, later in the day, saw male and female peregrines copulate twice. Also, high speed courtship flights by the tiercel. These flights are what causes all the “ohs and ahs” among the spectators.

Harris Hawk and Great-horned Owl Photo by Heather O'Connor

Harris Hawk and Great Horned Owl                            Photo by Heather O’Connor

Back down to earth in the parking lot, others are being entertained by two live birds of prey.  A Great Horned Owl and a Harris Hawk. Carl and Bebot Lea had just returned from a morning hunt with the hawk.

Harris Hawk and Great-horned Owl

Harris Hawk and Great-horned Owl                              Photo by Heather O’Connor

They sat with us for hours while the public got a close up look of these magnificent birds.

Happy trails, Bob

Hooch, the Great Horned Owl, is an imprinted male, a rehab bird that does not hunt. Previously, it had imprinted on the human that raised it before Carl and Bebot acquired it. This frequently happens when a bird is kept by a the person who found it as a nestling and doesn’t take it to a rehabilitation center where they know how to raise a bird so that it can be released into the wild with all the skills it needs to survive.

Morro Bay Inlet Photo by Heather O'Connor

Morro Bay Inlet looking south                                        Photo by Heather O’Connor

Posted in breeding, falcon, Morro Rock, other birds, peregrine, visitor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Scholarship news and request…

On the other side of the “Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch,” Heather O’Connor, my constant companion, has been in touch with our latest scholarship recipient, Wren Thompson, while she is in Ireland.

Heather speaking now:
“Here I am… with a suggestion and request.

Remember that we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization and your donation is fully tax deductible.

Last year, we made a $1,000 scholarship available to a CalPoly biology student from the funds we raised selling hats, t-shirts, peregrine stuffed toys and falcon pins to people who visited us at Morro Rock. We look forward to introducing her to you in January.

This year, we request that you make a contribution online at our “DONATE” button on the right.

Another option would be to send us a check
made out to Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch
and mailed to…
Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch
765 Center Ct.
Morro Bay, CA  93442 USA

If you deliver a $100 check to Bob at Morro Rock you will be given 2 mitered corner napkins of your choice.

Another method to use whenever you use Amazon, please, use our “Amazon Smile” button on the right when purchasing anything from them. They’ll send us $.05% of your purchase order.

We look forward to having a full mailbox as you support our efforts to give another CalPoly biology student a $1,000 scholarship.

Peace and love, Heather

Any questions? Email me…

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A frothing cauldron of wind and waves…

Observation date: 8 December 2015

With high winds and monstrous waves the harbor mouth is a frothing cauldron with waves 16 to 22 feet in height and gusts to 45 miles per hour.  Access to the south side of Morro Rock has been closed for almost a week. Open to foot traffic only, there is an endless line of surfers and wave watchers walking out to see the spectacle.

High swells of the first El Niño storm

High swells of the first El Niño storm                  Photo by Heather O’Connor

At low tide the surfers use the two breaks on the either side of the harbor mouth.

The north jetty called “Widow Walls.”

North jetty breakers

North jetty breakers                                 Photo by Heather O’Connor

The south jetty called “Corners.”

"Corners" on the south jetty Photo by Heather O'Connor

“Corners” on the south jetty                                       Photo by Heather O’Connor

Without the windbreak of my truck and shell, observing the falcons is next to impossible. With sustained winds of 20 miles an hour and gusts much higher, setting up optics is out of the question. However, from inside my truck, I have been able to see both pairs of falcons, north and south, coming and going. In their normal routine, but no breeding as of yet in either pair. They do, however, visit previous nest sites and continue to bond.

Happy trails, Bob

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Goin’ south…

Observation date: 29 October 2015

Access to the south side of Morro Rock has been closed today due to extreme high tides nearly seven feet and high surf. Yet, still visitors walk out to see the falcons and see the surf crash against the breakwater making a spectacular show of the ocean’s power, foam and spray.

Ocean breaking on the jetty

Waves crashing on the north jetty                          Photo by Heather O’Connor

For the last few weeks, the migration of many species of birds are being observed around the rock. Yesterday, we had three ospreys circling and diving in the bay that I watched along with other small birds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebes, Western Grebes, Eared Grebes and a lot of Monarch butterflies.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Photo by Bob Isenberg

Yellow-rumped Warbler                               Photo by Bob Isenberg

Both pairs of falcons on the rock continue to show signs of bonding, perching together and visiting previous nesting sites.

A lot of the morning hours, I spend photographing surfers on the north side of Morro Rock. Once or twice a day, I am interrupted by the shrill call of the peregrines and my attention turns to them. Yesterday, it was the female approaching the rock over the surfers. I was not alerted by the call, but by the unusual shape flying towards me. The wing beat said falcon, but the shape I could not describe until it got closer. She was carrying a Common Murre, but had not gathered it up completely and one wing and leg were dangling down. After she landed, I photographed her pluming and eating the Murre for the next 45 minutes.

Peregrine with Common Murre Photo by Bob Isenberg

Peregrine with Common Murre                             Photo by Bob Isenberg

I turned to watch the surfers and when I turned back she was gone as was the Murre.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: I neglected to mention the two migrating juvenile peregrine falcons that had been chased off in the last two days by the south side resident pair. They escaped with what was left of their pride and fewer feathers.

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Speak your mind…

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Observation date: October 2015

Morro Rock falcons, Bob Isenberg, Morro Bay, CA

Visitors to see the nest site at Morro Rock                                  Photo by Heather O’Connor

After reading the previous post,  if you have the desire to support the 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Educational Organization, Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, run by Bob Isenberg and Heather O’Connor, please read the information below.

Please tell them why you think we are a valuable group educating hundreds of people at Morro Rock every day about the peregrine falcons, a once endangered species due to DDT usage.

We tried two avenues to work with CA State Parks.

After two years of meetings with permission  given twice, “Yes, you may  collect donations and sell  appropriate items” and retracted  permission given three times, we have been totally stopped from raising any money to run our nonprofit at Morro Rock. As requested, we had gone through the CA State Parks “Docent Training.” Because we are on CA State Park land where they allow no soliciting, we have pursued several approaches to meet the requirements to function as an educational nonprofit organization.

  1. We tried to negotiate an agreement with the Central Coast State Parks Association, a Nonprofit Association under the CA State Parks,  Director Mary Golden, to no avail.  She said that they had exclusive rights to collect donations and sell items. In their CCSPA Agreement with the CA State Parks, we found no clause or statement to this effect.  We were asked to give all our money to them in January 2015.  After requesting  an agreement, and receiving none, we eventually were told that they would take 8% of any money we raised. We already pay the CA Sales Tax of 8%. Neither Mary Golden or anyone from CCSPA Board of Directors were willing to visit the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch to see the work that we do.
  2. We tried to negotiate an agreement to become a Cooperating Association with CA State Parks. It is because we are on CA State Park land that they have denied us the ability to do this even though San Luis Obispo Regional Director, Brooke Gutierrez, in an email to us,  said “the interpretive services that both you and Bob provide at Morro Rock are outstanding.”

Below is the information to send a hard copy letter to the Director of the CA State Parks and two other important people who need to hear how you think about the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch.

Please use a stamped envelope addressed to the following people.

Contact California State Parks.

Lisa Mangat, Director
California State Parks
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA  94296

Copies should be sent to the following people.

Contact the San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle Region, CA State Parks. 

Brooke Gutierrez, Director
CA State Parks
750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon, CA 93452
(805) 927-2068
(805) 927-2035

Contact the nonprofit  Central Coast State Parks Assoc. under CA State Parks.

Mary Golden, Executive Director
Central Coast State Parks Association
Museum of Natural History
20 State Park Road
Morro Bay, CA 93442

805.772.2694×102 Office
805.748.8278 Cell  or

We kindly thank you for your efforts to support our work.

Most sincerely,
Bob Isenberg and Heather O’Connor

Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch

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A little less wind in our sails…

Dropping off a perch Photo by Cleve Nash

Dropping off a perch                                         Photo by Cleve Nash

Observation date: August 2015

I think it only fair that I share with you the reason that you haven’t heard from us since July 19, 2015 and I do apologize for it.

We, the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. Heather and I, have been trying to settle our differences with the Central Coast State Parks Association, another private 501(c)(3) that has been given control of products and services that are sold on CA State Park property. These include everything from marina rentals/leases, toys to hot dogs. Because we have been a fixture so long in Morro Bay, we were urged by the CA State Parks, Morro Bay Museum of Natural History, docents and Morro Bay City Council, Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Center people to become part of it so that we would be able to collect donations and sell souvenirs, these profits going to student scholarships. This we did for some time after mandatory docent training and a few other hoops we had to jump through.

What looked to be a good thing in the beginning with lots of promises made to us soon turned into a can of worms. After half a year of giving everything and receiving nothing, we felt it was time to talk. After half a year of negotiations it got no better. One of the only good things that came out of it, was that we were able to give a $1,000 scholarship to a CalPoly biology student. This was collection of donations and souvenir sales. None of this might have happened if CCSPA , a nonprofit under CA State Parks, had its way with Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch.

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch has been a fine running machine in which no one is compensated for anything and everything we have given has been with pride, honesty and integrity.

We felt that it was not right for them to take everything and give nothing in return. We ask for no financial support only that we be able to function, raise money for another CalPoly Biology Scholarship and pay our bills.

Bob still frequents the “Rock,” but very little this time of year. The young have been run off and the next breeding season is four months away, but we’ll be there to capture all the excitement in words and photos on our website.

Happy trails, Bob

*Item:   Bob And Heather had invested over 50K in equipment and thousands of hours to make all of this happen. We are sorry the powers that be cannot see how beneficial the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch is in our community, in educating the public about the peregrines with first-hand observations at Morro Rock, only 196 yards to the diving board hole which has been a frequent nest site. People return year after year and often from great distance feeling a close participation in the work that we do.

Shell Beach juvenile peregrine Photo by Cleve Nash

Shell Beach juvenile peregrine                                    Photo by Cleve Nash

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