2015: Breeding season begins…

Observation date: 7 January 2015

This is the 9th, an hour after proof reading the January 7th Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch posting this morning. I left for the “rock.” At 9:05AM arriving at the “rock” I’m setting up my gear, meanwhile one of my cronies pulls up and says, “I see you have the female on the “chimney.”

I answered, “I haven’t had a chance to look. I’m still setting up.”

At 9:23 AM, I hear my crony, Gordon, voice again, “She’s getting bred.”

Sure enough right on top of the chimney and I don’t have my camera set up. I stayed until 4:45PM with 400mm lens and camera set for video, prefocused on the current boudoir, but to no avail. Seven hours and no second breeding.

Tomorrow I’ll set up once again without the chin whiskers, but knowing at least they have started the breeding season for 2015.

Bob Isenberg, Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch

Bob Isenberg                         Photo By Heather O’Connor

Happy trails, Bob

Item: Copulation 9:23AM, duration 9 seconds. (and retires to the diving board for a cigarette for a smoke.)

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Vigor and ferocity…

Observation date: 2 January 2015

January 2, 2015, this day last year the south side pair of peregrine falcons bred for the first time of the 2014 season. As of today no breeding has been observed as of yet. In past years it has normally begun in mid-December. I have been spending more hours this month on duty at the “rock.”  Seven and eight hours instead of the normal five and six just so I could have something to write about. I apologize for December’s lack of correspondence.

In the last few weeks, the falcons have encountered conflict with three different transient falcons, two female and one male. All being successfully dismissed by both male and female. Now that breeding is imminent, the tiercel’s testosterone level is rising and the Caspar Milquetoast persona is being replaced by the evil “Edward Hyde.*”

peregrine, falcon, stoop, cliff racing

Cliff racing                                               Photo by Cleve Nash

Daily encounters with other raptors have been observed twice with an osprey which the tiercel actually “bound onto”* for a second or two. These engagements are with vigor and ferocity, stooping many times and screaming. No longer the run and hide syndrome. The female who usually does all of this just sits and watches while he performs.

The birds could have copulated by this time, but I haven’t observed it as of yet. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but it’s a possibility. This is just something we don’t know right now.

peregrine, falcon, stoop

Peregrine stooping                                 Photo by Cleve Nash

Happy trails, Bob

* Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published 1886
* bound onto – see Glossary, bind. Bound is the past tense of the verb to bind.

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Short daylight hours…

Observation date: 21 December 2014

Bob Isenberg, Carl Lea, Great-horned Owl, Salinan Winter Solstice

Bob and Carl Lea with Hooch, Great-Horned Owl                             Photo by Heather O’Connor

We have celebrated the 2014 Winter Solstice with the Salinan* Tribe again. We notice the peregrines along with all animals are aware of the short daylight hours up to the winter solstice on the 21st of December. We all look forward to the longer daylight hours. I especially do !

Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, Bob Isenberg and Heather O'Connor

Bob Isenberg and Heather O’Connor                              Photo by Cleve Nash

Bob has grown his goatee and will shave it off when the peregrines begin breeding. This seems to be an annual event now. It seems to have begun when I went to Tucson, Arizona to move all my belongings to Morro Bay, California in 2011. When I left in November, Bob was clean shaven and on my return in December, I noticed his handsome goatee. As the falcons became more active and courtship displays were common, Bob kept his razor inactive. Then one day it came out, he was clean-shaven and I knew the peregrines had bred! We’ll let you know the date.

peregrine with solstice lights

Winter Solstice lights Photo by Cleve Nash, drawing by Heather O’Connor

Since the lights all around Morro Bay have become more festive to ward off the darkness of winter, I thought I’d add a little fanciful peregrine creativity. Do you think she’s done a good job? At least as well as we all do!

We wish you a very fine completion to your 2014 year and a happy, healthy, successful, satisfying and productive 2015.

Peace and love, Heather and Bob

Item: Bob is at “the rock” waiting and watching for breeding to begin as he meets and chats with the many, many curious visitors.

*Winter solstice is an astronomical phenomenon which marks the shortest day and the longest night of the year. Winter solstice occurs for the Northern Hemisphere in December and for the Southern Hemisphere in June. (Wikipedia)

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Band 70AC…

Observation date: 4 November 2014

Bonding continues with the peregrines on Morro Rock’s south side. The pair continue cooperative hunting and nearby perching. There have been no serious courtship flights, just a lot of the tiercel following her around in flight, then breaking off to land in one of the four nest sites she has used with him in the last six years. No copulations as of yet, but it should begin sometime in the next few weeks.

Meanwhile down the coast at Shell Beach, the widowed tiercel has had three female falcons auditioning for his favors. Lucky guy!

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Comments from Cleve say that the first, more than a month ago, was a mature bird. Her tenure was brief, and she never came close enough for a shot. The next was a second-year bird that was hatched and banded on Santa Cruz Island. She then relocated to the Oceano Dunes. She lasted a week. The newest appears (in my humble estimation)  to be a third-year bird.

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Here are the three. To me they all look the same, but maybe he sees long legs or blond feathers, shapely chest… Which one would you choose?

Happy trails, Bob

Photo by Cleve Nash

Photo by Cleve Nash

Item: The link to the Peregrines of the Channel Islands Report 2013 is the following. http://tinyurl.com/q2t5gtr
The second bird, 70/AC appears in this report (page 29 of the numbered page, 38 of the PDF)


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Using AmazonSmile…

peregrine agility

Agility of peregrines                       Photo by Kat Mokry

Press the AmazonSmile button!

Amazon Smile is making a donation to us because some of you have used the AmazonSmile button on the right side of our page. AmazonSmile Foundation donates 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible AmazonSmile items and there’s no cap on how much they will donate. $5.79 was the total during the period of July 1 and September 30, 2014.  Well, that was painless wasn’t it?   Think of what you could do by the end of December. Thank you!

Our effort to be one of the big nonprofits that Pacific Eye would contribute to has not been possible. Below is the group of organizations that they have chosen.  It seems we are too small even though we are a dedicated bunch who care immensely about the existence and life cycles of peregrines, especially those who live in Morro Bay.

We do appreciate your efforts to put our name in the pool of nonprofits. Thank you.

The community nominated through Pacific Eye Gives Back Challenge dozens of amazing organizations for the contest, and the physicians came together to select causes close to their hearts and important to the communities they serve.

The top ten were:
•Big Brothers Big Sisters of SLO County
•Court Appointed Special Advocates of SLO County (CASA)
•Food Bank Coalition of SLO County, Children’s Programs
•Noor Foundation
•San Luis Obispo Museum of Art
•Stoked 2 Surf
•The Land Conservancy of SLO County
•Transitions Mental Health Association
•Women’s Shelter Program of SLO County
•Woods Humane Society

Reminder: New subscribers to our Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch (PCPW) website, please, consider clicking on the AmazonSmile button to make a painless contribution to our efforts when you purchase items though AmazonSmile selecting PCPW as your designated nonprofit.

Peace and love, Heather

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Cause unknown…

Observation date: 21 October 2014

Sad news from Shell Beach. Cleve Nash making one of his trips to the eyrie on the cliffs at Shell Beach was informed of the loss of a female adult falcon. She was below the cliffs on the beach with a large number of dead cormorants. Cause is not yet known on the death of either.

Surf at the north jetty Photo by Bob Isenberg

Surf at the north jetty                    Photo by Bob Isenberg

At Morro Rock we have had high surf advisories which means no vehicle access to the south side parking lot for a while.

High surf   Photo by Bob Isenberg

Stat Park high surf restrictions denied us access to the parking lot…peregrines and beauty remain             Photo by Bob Isenberg

I have been relegated to the north side amid the dust and high winds across the huge dirt parking lot. Needless to say, you can’t set up any optics, just hunker down behind the truck and observe with binoculars.

We still have more migrants every day, mostly waterbirds. We have been looking for “Doris.”*  You might remember her from previous writings that she is an adult female falcon that has wintered in the south part of the Morro Bay Estuary six years in a row. Three different times she has arrived on the 25th of October and within a day or so the other three years.

The high surf advisory should subside and I’ll be back on my perch on the south side.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: A new female falcon has been seen by Cleve Nash flying with the Shell Beach widower. We are awaiting close up photos.

Monterey Cypress

Photo By Heather O’Connor



* Doris – Go to the tag for “Doris” to find other stories about her. Cleve Nash checks regularly for her in the Monterey Cypress.

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Amazon Smile…

Intense gaze   Photo by Cleve Nash

Intense gaze         Photo by Cleve Nash

It is the time of year when we begin to think of holidays  and of letting our friends and family know that we appreciate them. It may be a time to tell them that we love them or want to spend time with them or even give them a gift to show our appreciation.

If that gift giving is your style, we have a suggestion… When it is a material gift that you wish to purchase, we request that you use the Amazon Smile button when you place your order. When you do that and choose Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch as your chosen nonprofit organization, a portion will be donated to Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch. There is no extra charge to you.

Sharp vision  Photo by Cleve Nash

Sharp vision          Photo by Cleve Nash

So, please, press the Amazon Smile button to the right and follow the instructions.

We will be most grateful when you do that.


Happy trails, Bob and Heather



Here’s looking at you         Photo by Cleve Nash

P.S.  I have already set up my Amazon Smile account to benefit Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch. ~Heather

P.P.S  Remember that we are raising money for Scholarships to benefit CalPoly students in Wildlife Biology and Ornithology.

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Migrating , bonding and spanking…

Observation date: 1 October 2014


Osprey                                           Photo by Cleve Nash

Here on the Central Coast, migrations have begun to trickle into the county. Some of the raptors that have come by Morro Rock in the last few days are 6 Osprey, 3 Northern Harriers, male and female, 1 Merlin, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk… Of the other birds and water fowl, the San Luis Obispo hotline lists Northern Pintails, Blue-winged, Green-winged and Cinnamon Teal, Mallards, Northern Shovelers, Gadwall, White-fronted geese. Of the song birds …Redstart, warblers, Black-necked Stilts, Phainopepla, just to name a few.

Yesterday, I saw the first day of bonding between the south side pair of falcons. The tiercel perched by himself on the throne chupping loudly. He was soon joined by the female, not six inches away did she land. They vocalized for twenty seconds or so, then sat quietly for the next hour.

peregrine, bonding

On the throne, bonding                                                Photo by Cleve Nash

Suddenly the tiercel sliced,* then shot off the rock and across the bay to the beach near the south jetty.  The female following close in, he stooped at the last second and flushed a small flock of shore birds. I lost both of them in the mêlée of birds. If they made a kill, they didn’t bring it back to the rock. When they did return to the rock ninety minutes later, they were greeted by two juvenile females which they abruptly gave chase, having no mercy on the young. Diving and spanking both of them, successfully running them off.

It was strange to see the bonding start so early.  It usual starts in November followed by breeding in mid-December.

Happy trails, Bob

Of the thirteen seasons I have watched this female, the earliest I have seen her breed was November 30th. The latest was January 4th.

*slice- falconers term: to defecate

peregrine,  Falcon terminology: To slice

Falcon terminology: To slice                               Photo by Cleve Nash

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After hurdles, a perfect union…

Comment date: 25 September 2014

Over the past year, several people have urged us to join the California State Parks, and what they are called locally, the Central Coast State Parks Association, CCSPA. More people with various perspectives urged and spoke with us. The Morro Bay Museum Manager, docents from the CA State Parks along with docents from the Friends of the Elephant Seal, freelance wildlife photographers and just plain friends. There were a few who were not enamored with the idea, so there were some obstacles and hurdles to overcome.

Early on, we could not come to an agreement of distribution of our funds. You see, we did all the work creating and filing for our nonprofit organization, Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch. It took time.  A very kind and astute attorney, who already had a relationship with the State Parks joined in.  A generous CPA committed time and educated us about the steps. One of our Board of Director members, who was a long time docent at Montaña de Oro was encouraging and inspirational.

Central Coast State Parks Association

Central Coast State Parks Association

By July 2014, we still had requested and required a level of individuality for our PCPW. We wanted the earnings that come from donations and sales to go to CalPoly Scholarships for Ornithology and Wildlife Biology students and not for State Park trails, bathrooms and displays.

After several months, a new approach was found. We would have a separate bank account for the PCPW Scholarships. We have offered our skills and experience along with the nonprofit organization to make this work. Negotiations between the Parks  and PCPW went well and eventually, both of us found value in the connection we had made.

Bob Isenberg, Morro Rock, Morro Bay, CA

Bob Isenberg ready for visitors Photo by Heather O’Connor

Bob Isenberg is a self-taught naturalist, an avian behaviorist and keen observer. Born in Pasadena, California, as a teenager he was fascinated with birds and especially wanted to see a peregrine falcon. After a tour in the Navy and time spent in Northern California, in 1969 at 28 years old,  he arrived in San Luis Obispo. With experience as a Heavy Equipment Operator, he took a job with the City of San Luis Obispo. Being out of doors constantly, he was always aware of the birds that peaked his curiosity. That first year working for the City of San Luis Obispo, he saw his first peregrine falcon on the cliffs at Shell Beach. He’s been hooked ever since! Additional study, observations and friendships with peregrine experts gave him his background expertise. Bob is the Guide that you’ll find at Morro Rock, a teacher, a slide show presenter and an enthusiastic writer that you all know from our PCPW Website.

Heather O’Connor, born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,  is a traveler, has BFA in Illustration, a BS in Animal Biology and has been on several Earthwatch Expeditions in Peru, Brazil, Belize, Chile, Australia, Costa Rica,  US Virgin Islands, Madagascar, South Carolina and Colorado, assisting with data collections of katydids, peccaries, squirrel fish, rodents, platypuses, dinoflagellates, lemurs, diamondback terrapins, wildflowers and pitta-like ground rollers. All this mixed in with family life, curiosity, science, art and travel have taken her many places. She is the person who assisted Bob in creating the nonprofit PCPW. She’s an Elephant Seal Docent and person who posts Bob’s stories and photos, mostly from Cleve Nash,  and dreams up with Bob what to do next to make the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch the best it can be.  Someone said they found each other “under a rock.” One of them is still at that “rock” every day!

To pass this passion, enthusiasm and education along to others is the reason that we are here. Enjoy.

Happy trails, Bob and Heather

Bob Isenberg, Morro Rock, Morro Bay, CA

Bob with his new CA State Park logo.                     Come visit us !                     Photo by Heather O’Connor

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Leaving? Better wait…

Observation date: 12 September 2014

It feels like fall is near at Morro Rock. Temperatures are beginning to decline  along the coast. However, twelve miles inland, it’s still near triple digits. I have begun seeing birds that are usually plentiful in spring. Bushtits are back at the rock flocked up.

Today, a group of birders on the “Birders of Land and Sea at Morro Rock” tour saw 29 species of birds. The group is led by Morro Bay Museum Natural History Manager, Rouvaishyana. As they rounded the rock, 150 yards from my position, I am about to panic with three spotting scopes set up and not a falcon in sight.

I was introduced to the group and began spouting everything that I knew about the famous pair of falcons that live on the south side of Morro Rock. It held their attention for about two minutes.

I knew what was next…”So where are the birds, Falcon Bob?”

“Well, there is a flock of bushtits in the willows.”

They started looking around, found a Bewick’s Wren and not much else. The group thanked me for showing them the old nest site in the scopes, then turned and went to walk back.

Then came the sweet sound of the adult peregrines cacking their arrival to the rock. The group only got fifteen yards before turning back. I had two scopes zeroed in on each bird before they got to me. They all left about fifteen minutes later, chattering all the way back.

Twenty minutes after they left, the real excitement began. A large juvenile female approached the rock from the north flying along the face of the rock to the west. I  could see her for the 200 yards before she came into view of the resident falcons. When she did, all hell broke loose! Both adults screaming with after-burners at full. The young female was stopped in her tracks and looked like she might fall out of the sky. She was so surprised! She regained her flight, diving straight down to gain speed then pumping hard into level flight, all the time with the two adults in hot pursuit still screaming. After the chase was over, the female returning to the rock made a high speed pass at an Acorn Woodpecker atop a willow on the hillside. We had been watching this woodpecker earlier and I couldn’t remember if I had ever seen one on the rock. The biggest willow might have a 4” trunk diameter. An hour later, the same thing, a juvie female gets a lickin.’ If it was the same one, she’s a little slow on the uptake.

A while later, an osprey cruising the shoreline of the beach behind me is in for the same “hash and bash” routine from the falcons, however he is not impressed and because he is not ducking and diving, the falcons break off.

Morro Rock, CA, osprey

Osprey in flight                              Photo by Cleve Nash

Enough for one day!

Happy trails, Bob

Item: Of the many times I have seen an osprey at the rock, the falcons rarely chase them. I don’t know why. Not so for all other raptors.

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