The Peregrine Watch goes to college…

Observation date:  8 April 2017

In past years, Professor Maureen Smith has brought her students from Saddleback College in Orange County, California to Morro Bay to explore all the wonders. They camp in the Morro Bay State Park and venture out to see every thing of interest. For some it is a non-stop adventure. Everyone has a job and each does it well. I wish our government could run this smoothly.

For Maureen, the falcons are a must.

After I’ve given a presentation and slide show on Friday night, the following morning they came to Morro Rock to see the falcons live! They were not disappointed. Flying exhibitions of high speed cliff racing, gull spanking and the lot. We were able to only watch the north side pair. The south side are not nesting again this year. The north pair are nesting in the Cathedral hole named for its arch shape visible from different angles.

Cathedral eyrie                     Photo by Bob Isenberg

This was the first eyrie used by the north side falcons in 2001 and has not been reused until this year.

Female in nest site                        Photo by Bob Isenberg

Happy trails, Bob

Item: The photo we show here is for location purpose and were taken with an iPhone. The other shows the bird in the Cathedral hole and was taken with my Canon 500mm with a 1.4 extender.

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Excitement at Sweet Springs…

During the month of February 2017, drama took over. The winter residents included a Bald Eagle flying over Sweet Springs Nature Preserve, Los Osos, CA. It comes in with the migrating birds and leaves in the springtime. The peregrine is our visiting falcon, “Doris” who we’ve followed for years.  She visits each winter too. Cleve had seen her in the old snag by the coffee shop where she usually perches. Suddenly, she took off, flew across the bay and was on a mission!

Attack !                            Photo by Cleve Nash

Since the gate has been locked by the CA State Parks due to winter weather, swells, (which have calmed down now), the dredging operation which has set up huge pipes in the large parking lot and who knows what else, Bob has been unable to go out to view the south side peregrines. He has been watching the north side pair and will hopefully write up a story for you.

Until my next exploration, Heather


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Breeding begins…

Observation date:  8 January 2017

Breeding could have happened before today, but I can only report when I see it happen. Last year, the pair were breeding on January 3rd. There is a three week window when this normally takes place. This morning arriving at Morro Rock about 8AM both male and female falcons on the south side where eating willets, a medium size long legged shore bird.

Peregrine with willet  Photo by Cleve Nash

Peregrine with willet                       Photo by Cleve Nash

This is the first I have seen them bring prey to the rock in a few months. Courtship flights have been taking place around the rock for weeks. Now with the two eating at the rock you know something is going to happen. Within a half hour a Red-tailed Hawk appears around the north side of the rock. Both male and female falcon immediately take flight and make a bee line toward the hawk. Both falcons screaming and diving in tandem at his back and wings. With a successful rousting of the hawk, the female returns first to finish her meal of willet. The tiercel meantime makes a couple of high speed passes over and around her before landing atop her to copulate.
Funny what a little danger and excitement will do.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: 94.6% of breeding has started between December 24th and January 3rd.

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A welcome return…

Observation date:  4 December 2016

In the previous five or six years, I have written about “Doris,” a solitary adult female peregrine, that has wintered here in nearby Baywood Park. The last time she was observed was 3 January 2014 by a family from Massachusetts. She stayed through March according to Cleve. I wrote about sending them over to see her. The title was “Massachusetts please reply…”.

Last week, Cleve Nash, our local photographer extraordinaire, stopped by the little coffee shop in Baywood for a cup and who flies in to the old cypress tree, but “Doris.”  These two were old friends. I’m sure she recognized Cleve just as he did her. He has hundreds of photos of her! We don’t know where she has wintered the last two seasons, but we welcome her return.

"Doris"  Photo by Cleve Nash

“Doris”                           Photo by Cleve Nash

As of other news around Morro Rock, bonding continues, but no sign of breeding activities as yet. Once we see courtship flights which we have not seen as of this writing, breeding will soon start.

Happy trails, Bob

Item:  Doris’s  name was derived from the eucalyptus tree that she perched in at the corner of Doris and Mitchell Streets. This tree was her alternate perch about a mile away from the cypress tree at the coffee shop.

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Bonding begins…

Observation date:  10 November 2016

Increased interaction between male and female peregrines has occurred with both north and south side pairs. Things to look for are mates perching closer together, hunting in tandem more often and aerial displays by the male. The latter we have seen in the last week. The tiercel is harassing more birds, mostly Western Gulls. This is what is called “gull splashing.” They are driving them into the bay.

From here on out is the most exciting time of the year and consequentially, I will be writing more about them.

Photo by Bob Isenberg

Male and female peregrines bonding                                 Photo by Bob Isenberg

In other news around the rock, we had a grey whale come into the bay, the first observed this year. Full of barnacles and about thirty feet on length, he traveled up Morro Bay to about the Hofbrau Restaurant, turned around and headed out past  Coleman Park was observed by many other onlookers along with Heather and me. As he neared the otter colony at Target Rock, a mass of bubbles appeared on the bay. A woman near us said, “He must be feeding.” Soon the bubbles turned to a rosy pink. I commented to her, “I think he is letting us know what he thinks of Morro Bay.”

Happy trails, Bob

Item: The rosy pink is from the krill they eat.

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Red right returning…

Observation date:  23 August 2016

Additionally, if you watch these posts on Facebook, please go to the WordPress website and add your email to make sure you receive all posts. I had a bit of a problem with Facebook postings not linking up. ~Heather

Without having chicks this year or last, the south side Morro Rock peregrines have not been themselves, active and entertaining. To me they seem to be more like fixtures on a mantel when I am watching them.  Somedays you see them, others you may sit for five hours and catch a glimpse just as you pack up to call it a day. In the past twenty years, I have been skunked about three times. In July and August of this year, I have failed to have seen them four different times even by trying to stay more than five hours each time.

The north side falcon frequents the rock every now and again. The three young from this year’s hatch have not been seen for at least five weeks, until today.  Around noon while watching for the south side pair, which were not there at the time, when over the bay came a dark familiar wingbeat of a juvenile female falcon, passing between the red and green buoy markers, one hundred feet off the deck.

Young female at the rock Photo by Cleve Nash

Young female at the rock                          Photo by Cleve Nash

Traveling down the bay, she made a sweeping left turn to approach the rock high over the old Indian trail. While traveling the face of Morro Rock, east to west, at speed, she strafed and tumbled an adult Western Gull.*

Strafing a gull Photo by Cleve Nash

Strafing a gull                                             Photo by Cleve Nash

My sidekick, Gordon and I said nothing until she rounded the windward side of the rock and went out of sight. After that we couldn’t shut up. It brought back times when we had excitement around the rock about two months ago.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: We are still here at the rock for the public to view these magnificent birds every day. Afternoons are best.

* Strafing and tumbling –  Something young birds do to hone their hunting and flying skills.

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