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


About Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch is here to inform birders, students and all people who are eager to know about these handsome peregrines. We want you to enjoy and be able to use our on-site powerful spotting scopes. We are available to answer your questions about the pair of falcons that have been observed for many years.

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2 Responses to Winter Bird Festival…

  1. janine fallon says:

    Hi Bob and Heather,
    Please pass along my appreciation of the amazing photo by Clive Nash–the shadow of the falcon on the cliff face is exquisite! Also, appreciation of waves crashing on the N. jetty–it’s not easy to capture the exact moment, Heather. Thanks for sharing the excitement! Love, Janine


  2. Very interesting and grea pictures. Do these two birds live with a human and hunt for them? I ws surprised to see thhe one sitting on the hat.

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