On schedule…

Male and female peregrines, Morro Rock, Morro Bay, CA

Female and male peregrines                                  Photo*  by Heather O’Connor

Observation date: 25 February 2015

Breeding of the peregrine falcons continues at Morro Rock with copulations occurring every forty to fifty minutes. Occasionally, longer or shorter depending on the day’s activities, i.e. eating, hunting or chasing of other predators. Such was the case today. A large bold juvenile female made the mistake of following the tiercel back to the “rock” while he was carrying prey.  She was abruptly met by the resident female with a full-on thrust to the chest, stopping the young bird in full flight. This I had never witnessed before… a frontal attack.

Many of the observers have commented to me on how full she looks, especially in the girth. After depositing the prey, the tiercel joined in the fray. The resident female and interloper were locked talon to talon spiraling down from 75 feet above then breaking apart a few feet above water’s edge. Forty plus people watched in awe and listened to the screams as the tiercel finished off the encounter with a long chase with multiple stoops heading across the bay taking a few feathers from the young one.

The female has ceased hunting which is normal and occurs a couple weeks before egg laying begins. Other than the encounter today, her flight seems a little slower and more labored. She also perches for longer periods of time. By all the things that I observe, everything seems to be on schedule.

The next thing we will be looking for will be soiling around the vent area. This will tell us egg laying has begun.

Happy trails, Bob

Item:
She will be picking a nest site soon. When she stays in one of these holes for more than an hour or so, this is another sign that egg laying has begun. Stay tuned!

*Photo – This photo was taken with an iPhone 5 with adaptor which attaches to the Swarovski spotting scope.

Posted in breeding, eggs, juvenile, Morro Rock, peregrine | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Just showing off…

Observation date: 6 February 2015

Visitors to Morro Rock today were treated with a spectacular aerial performance from the south side tiercel. Oooohs and ahhhhhs followed all his high speed acrobatics. When you think he’s about out of gas, he swerves in at great speed hitting the airbrakes to land on top of the female for seven seconds of copulation then returning to the air again. With all systems charged, he returns to speed with stiff winds blowing. In one forty three minute exercise, he copulated four times and sortied at least sixty times in front of the female, stopping twelve times for no more than thirty seconds each,  just to catch his breath. I have no idea how old this male is, but on days like this he looks to be in his prime. In previous postings, I have written about his short comings, made fun of him and called him Caspar Milquetoast, which were true, but today in gale force winds he was Caspar Studmuffin.

Happy trails, Bob

Item:
The only way for me to capture this awesome display is with words. Video and photography are extremely difficult due to the high speed of the falcon and the distance, 75 to 100 yards, and with the rock in the background. It is hard for the camera to know what to focus on. Most of the spectators see him stoop* in the blue sky and lose sight as he passes in front of the rock at tremendous speed. They then pick him up again as he clears the face to swoop up into the blue sky to make another run. These displays of speed and high “G force” turns will continue until egg laying sometime within the first two weeks of March. If you are lucky enough to see this on a windy day, I’m sure it will be etched in your mind forever.

*stoop – near vertical dive

Posted in Morro Rock, peregrine | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Questions and answers…

Occasionally our posts don’t make it through to everyone. I have changed the title and am reposting the very informative most recent post. I know that you will find it very educational. It’s just basic biology. Feel free to ask more questions anytime. ~Heather

Observation date: 22 January 2015

In the 6 hours that I observe them, breeding continues daily at about two to three times a day.  It will continue becoming more frequent as we approach the first two weeks of March.

While we’re on the subject of breeding, I receive a lot of questions, in person at the “rock,” and on the website. Here are, but a few of the most asked questions and my answers to them.

Question: Do they breed in the air?

Answer: No, they don’t. What you see in the air is normally courtship. They breed just like chickens and birds on the ground, in a tree, on a rock or in the water such as ducks. Some birds try aerial copulation such as swifts and swallows, but it is more foreplay until they get to a stable position.

Q: How do they breed? I don’t see a phallus.

A: It is called a cloacal kiss.*  The male mounts the female who is in a chin down, butt up position with both vents touching in a kiss. The male ejaculates into the female. It takes just seconds. However, ducks, geese and most water fowl have a phallus because of breeding in the water.

peregrines, cloacal kiss

A breeding pair of peregrines                                               Photo by Cleve Nash

Q: Why do falcons breed so often and for so long?

A: My understanding is that for the previous nine months, there is no sexual activity and the testes lie dormant and stay small. With all the activity they become larger and more potent.

Q: When does he know when to breed her?

A: She will usually land on one of her preferred breeding rocks and go into a submissive pose as he flies by.  If he does not get the message she will sometimes knock him off his perch and make him come to her. What a gal!

After breeding for three months, the female senses when she is heavy with eggs and she will cease all hunting activities. Within the next couple of weeks she will start laying egg and begin brooding.

Q: Does the male sit on the eggs also?

A: Yes, he does, but he is doing all the hunting to feed everyone including all the chicks. Until they are a couple of weeks old, he will brood the chicks about 35% of the time.  She will brood about 65%. At this time, the female will begin to hunt again.

I hope this might answer some of the questions that a few of you might have been too embarrassed to ask me in person.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: For the shy: Shortest copulation 2 seconds, longest copulation 19 seconds observed.

Note: I love to try to answer your questions, if I can. The answers that I have given to them are from 20 years of pure observations and have been consistent year after year. ~Bob

Sub-note: Considering the time that I have seen Bob at the “rock” over the past 4 years, his observations are very accurate and consistent. Numerous visitors to the “rock” see Bob’s dedication to precise observations of avian behavior. ~Heather

* cloacal kiss – the contact which occurs during insemination in birds when the vent of the female is everted exposing the cloacal mucosa against which the phallus of the male is pressed.  – Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 3 ed.. (2007).

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May contain explicit facts of a sexual nature…

Observation date: 22 January 2015

In the 6 hours that I observe them, breeding continues daily at about two to three times a day.  It will continue becoming more frequent as we approach the first two weeks of March.

While we’re on the subject of breeding, I receive a lot of questions, in person at the “rock,” and on the website. Here are, but a few of the most asked questions and my answers to them.

Question: Do they breed in the air?

Answer: No, they don’t. What you see in the air is normally courtship. They breed just like chickens and birds on the ground, in a tree, on a rock or in the water such as ducks. Some birds try aerial copulation such as swifts and swallows, but it is more foreplay until they get to a stable position.

Q: How do they breed? I don’t see a phallus.

A: It is called a cloacal kiss.*  The male mounts the female who is in a chin down, butt up position with both vents touching in a kiss. The male ejaculates into the female. It takes just seconds. However, ducks, geese and most water fowl have a phallus because of breeding in the water.

peregrines, cloacal kiss

A breeding pair of peregrines                                               Photo by Cleve Nash

Q: Why do falcons breed so often and for so long?

A: My understanding is that for the previous nine months, there is no sexual activity and the testes lie dormant and stay small. With all the activity they become larger and more potent.

Q: When does he know when to breed her?

A: She will usually land on one of her preferred breeding rocks and go into a submissive pose as he flies by.  If he does not get the message she will sometimes knock him off his perch and make him come to her. What a gal!

After breeding for three months, the female senses when she is heavy with eggs and she will cease all hunting activities. Within the next couple of weeks she will start laying egg and begin brooding.

Q: Does the male sit on the eggs also?

A: Yes, he does, but he is doing all the hunting to feed everyone including all the chicks. Until they are a couple of weeks old, he will brood the chicks about 35% of the time.  She will brood about 65%. At this time, the female will begin to hunt again.

I hope this might answer some of the questions that a few of you might have been too embarrassed to ask me in person.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: For the shy: Shortest copulation 2 seconds, longest copulation 19 seconds observed.

Note: I love to try to answer your questions, if I can. The answers that I have given to them are from 20 years of pure observations and have been consistent year after year. ~Bob

Sub-note: Considering the time that I have seen Bob at the “rock” over the past 4 years, his observations are very accurate and consistent. Numerous visitors to the “rock” see Bob’s dedication to precise observations of avian behavior. ~Heather

* cloacal kiss – the contact which occurs during insemination in birds when the vent of the female is everted exposing the cloacal mucosa against which the phallus of the male is pressed.  – Saunders Comprehensive Veterinary Dictionary, 3 ed.. (2007).

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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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