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.

Posted in falcon, gulls, juvenile, Morro Rock, peregrine | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments

Bon appétit…

Observation date:  16 Jun 2016

Shore birds are typically the main diet of the peregrine falcon, but when June rolls around for about four weeks, the young Western gull chicks are the main entree.

In the "nursery" eating...     Photo by Bob Isenberg

In the “nursery” eating…               Photo by Bob Isenberg

The following is but a sample of what I am talking about. In the four to five hours that I spend each day, I observed in a four day period eighteen baby gulls brought in by the adults to feed their young and themselves.

Click on our video below:

juvenile eating Western gull chick

When I leave the “rock” there are still eight more hours of daylight that I do not observe! It is possible that in four full days, each with fourteen hours of light, this number could be doubled very easily.

juvenile eating prey  Photo by Bob Isenberg

juvenile eating prey              Photo by Bob Isenberg

Happy trails, Bob

Item: I forgot to mention, in the same four day period, five small shore birds were also brought in!

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North side fledglings…

Observation date:  2 Jun 2016

Early view of first chick Photo by Cleve Nash

Early view of first chick – May 14, 2016                                               Photo by Cleve Nash

Here's the second chick Photo by Cleve Nash

Here’s the second chick                                               Photo by Cleve Nash

Although nesting on the south side of Morro Rock failed this year, we do have three young peregrine falcons that fledged on the north side.

Introducing the young falcons Photo by Cleve Nash

Introducing the young falcons – May 27, 2016                                        Photo by Cleve Nash

The first taking flight was the 26th of May. Two of the young flew early that morning, the last one late in the afternoon.

There appears to be one male and two females, judging by their size. As soon as the young birds fledge it is straight to the nursery. This is a bowl shaped structure on the far left end off the north side of the rock some 300 yards from the nest site and protected from wind.

In the nursery Photo by Cleve Nash

In the nursery                                                                 Photo by Cleve Nash

They will be here for a couple of weeks before venturing out to the sand spit and around the bay usually returning to the nursery, but not as frequently. The nest site is no longer used.

All of the chicks have the large cheek patch like the mother and none have the full black hood of the father, however this could change after the first molt next year.

Incoming parent with captured prey Photo by Cleve Nash

Incoming parent with captured prey                                                       Photo by Cleve Nash

The adults bringing in  five birds in a four and a half hour period that I observed.

Delivery of nourishment Photo by Cleve Nash

Delivery of nourishment Photo by Cleve Nash

The mother baits the young by flying close to and over them with prey trying to get them to fly up and take it from her in mid-air.

Parental attention to feeding is so careful Photo by Cleve Nash

Parental attention to feeding is so careful                                                     Photo by Cleve Nash

This we have observed twice. Most of the time the parents just land beside the young, who fight amongst themselves to see who gets the tasty morsel.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: The first baby Western gulls have made their appearance in the talons of the female falcon.

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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.
Posted in breeding, chicks, falcon, Morro Rock | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments