Observation date: 11 April 2016

Things are just in a tizzy here at Morro Rock. I can’t give the answers to many visitors we get here because when it comes to nesting, I just don’t know.

Both pairs of falcons normally start nesting in the first two to three weeks of March. Here we are in the middle of April and both male and female are still breeding and flying around. No sign of incubation. However, on the south side, the female has been frequenting the “waterfall” hole. At times, she will spend an hour or more inside, which would be normal egg laying procedure, but this has been going on for a month and a half.

Going into the waterfall hole  Photo by Cleve Nash

Going into the waterfall hole                        Photo by Cleve Nash

The north side pair seems to be doing the same, although I have not seen them choose a nest site as yet.

There are so many variables… weather with “El Niño,” old age* with the south side female, male potency, etc. I just don’t have an answer yet.

Happy trails, Bob

* The female is now 16 years old and in her 15th breeding season.

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Fits and starts…

Observation date: 3 March 2016

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch has been off line for an unusual amount of time and not because we don’t want to. Most of the problems were not something that we could control.

"Rough Bar"   Photo by Bob Isenberg

“Rough Bar”                          Photo by Bob Isenberg

The gate to the south side of Morro Rock is normally closed during high surf advisories which we have had many of. Ca State Parks and Harbor Patrol thought it better to keep it closed all together through the winter. This made it very difficult for us. It seems that everybody has a key, but the dog catcher and me. Packing up all the equipment and paraphernalia a quarter of a mile to entertain the public does not work well at seventy five with neuropathy.

Needless to say, we have gone though fits and starts with all of the agencies, but to no avail.

Any way, you can see what I’ve done in these photos. I’ve had the trike for a couple of years and just bought the trailer so I can get back out. And none too soon either.

Arrival  Photo by Bob Isenberg

Arrival                                         Photo by Bob Isenberg

All set up     Photo by Bob Isenberg

All set up                                    Photo by Bob Isenberg


A few of the many peregrine watchers at Morro Rock                        Photo by Heather O’Connor

I expect her to start egg laying in a week or ten days. Today breeding was heavy. About 40 to 45 minutes apart. I believe she has stopped hunting, since he has been bringing in all the prey items for both to eat.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: The south side gate has been open a total of 10 days since January 1st.

Heading home  Photo by Heather O'Connor

Heading home after a successful day                                        Photo by Heather O’Connor

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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

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Scholarship news and request…

On the other side of the “Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch,” Heather O’Connor, my constant companion, has been in touch with our latest scholarship recipient, Wren Thompson, while she is in Ireland.

Heather speaking now:
“Here I am… with a suggestion and request.

Remember that we are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization and your donation is fully tax deductible.

Last year, we made a $1,000 scholarship available to a CalPoly biology student from the funds we raised selling hats, t-shirts, peregrine stuffed toys and falcon pins to people who visited us at Morro Rock. We look forward to introducing her to you in January.

This year, we request that you make a contribution online at our “DONATE” button on the right.

Another option would be to send us a check
made out to Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch
and mailed to…
Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch
765 Center Ct.
Morro Bay, CA  93442 USA

If you deliver a $100 check to Bob at Morro Rock you will be given 2 mitered corner napkins of your choice.

Another method to use whenever you use Amazon, please, use our “Amazon Smile” button on the right when purchasing anything from them. They’ll send us $.05% of your purchase order.

We look forward to having a full mailbox as you support our efforts to give another CalPoly biology student a $1,000 scholarship.

Peace and love, Heather

Any questions? Email me…

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A frothing cauldron of wind and waves…

Observation date: 8 December 2015

With high winds and monstrous waves the harbor mouth is a frothing cauldron with waves 16 to 22 feet in height and gusts to 45 miles per hour.  Access to the south side of Morro Rock has been closed for almost a week. Open to foot traffic only, there is an endless line of surfers and wave watchers walking out to see the spectacle.

High swells of the first El Niño storm

High swells of the first El Niño storm                  Photo by Heather O’Connor

At low tide the surfers use the two breaks on the either side of the harbor mouth.

The north jetty called “Widow Walls.”

North jetty breakers

North jetty breakers                                 Photo by Heather O’Connor

The south jetty called “Corners.”

"Corners" on the south jetty Photo by Heather O'Connor

“Corners” on the south jetty                                       Photo by Heather O’Connor

Without the windbreak of my truck and shell, observing the falcons is next to impossible. With sustained winds of 20 miles an hour and gusts much higher, setting up optics is out of the question. However, from inside my truck, I have been able to see both pairs of falcons, north and south, coming and going. In their normal routine, but no breeding as of yet in either pair. They do, however, visit previous nest sites and continue to bond.

Happy trails, Bob

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Goin’ south…

Observation date: 29 October 2015

Access to the south side of Morro Rock has been closed today due to extreme high tides nearly seven feet and high surf. Yet, still visitors walk out to see the falcons and see the surf crash against the breakwater making a spectacular show of the ocean’s power, foam and spray.

Ocean breaking on the jetty

Waves crashing on the north jetty                          Photo by Heather O’Connor

For the last few weeks, the migration of many species of birds are being observed around the rock. Yesterday, we had three ospreys circling and diving in the bay that I watched along with other small birds, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Say’s Phoebe, Black Phoebes, Western Grebes, Eared Grebes and a lot of Monarch butterflies.

Yellow-rumped Warbler Photo by Bob Isenberg

Yellow-rumped Warbler                               Photo by Bob Isenberg

Both pairs of falcons on the rock continue to show signs of bonding, perching together and visiting previous nesting sites.

A lot of the morning hours, I spend photographing surfers on the north side of Morro Rock. Once or twice a day, I am interrupted by the shrill call of the peregrines and my attention turns to them. Yesterday, it was the female approaching the rock over the surfers. I was not alerted by the call, but by the unusual shape flying towards me. The wing beat said falcon, but the shape I could not describe until it got closer. She was carrying a Common Murre, but had not gathered it up completely and one wing and leg were dangling down. After she landed, I photographed her pluming and eating the Murre for the next 45 minutes.

Peregrine with Common Murre Photo by Bob Isenberg

Peregrine with Common Murre                             Photo by Bob Isenberg

I turned to watch the surfers and when I turned back she was gone as was the Murre.

Happy trails, Bob

Item: I neglected to mention the two migrating juvenile peregrine falcons that had been chased off in the last two days by the south side resident pair. They escaped with what was left of their pride and fewer feathers.

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Speak your mind…

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Observation date: October 2015

Morro Rock falcons, Bob Isenberg, Morro Bay, CA

Visitors to see the nest site at Morro Rock                                  Photo by Heather O’Connor

After reading the previous post,  if you have the desire to support the 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Educational Organization, Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, run by Bob Isenberg and Heather O’Connor, please read the information below.

Please tell them why you think we are a valuable group educating hundreds of people at Morro Rock every day about the peregrine falcons, a once endangered species due to DDT usage.

We tried two avenues to work with CA State Parks.

After two years of meetings with permission  given twice, “Yes, you may  collect donations and sell  appropriate items” and retracted  permission given three times, we have been totally stopped from raising any money to run our nonprofit at Morro Rock. As requested, we had gone through the CA State Parks “Docent Training.” Because we are on CA State Park land where they allow no soliciting, we have pursued several approaches to meet the requirements to function as an educational nonprofit organization.

  1. We tried to negotiate an agreement with the Central Coast State Parks Association, a Nonprofit Association under the CA State Parks,  Director Mary Golden, to no avail.  She said that they had exclusive rights to collect donations and sell items. In their CCSPA Agreement with the CA State Parks, we found no clause or statement to this effect.  We were asked to give all our money to them in January 2015.  After requesting  an agreement, and receiving none, we eventually were told that they would take 8% of any money we raised. We already pay the CA Sales Tax of 8%. Neither Mary Golden or anyone from CCSPA Board of Directors were willing to visit the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch to see the work that we do.
  2. We tried to negotiate an agreement to become a Cooperating Association with CA State Parks. It is because we are on CA State Park land that they have denied us the ability to do this even though San Luis Obispo Regional Director, Brooke Gutierrez, in an email to us,  said “the interpretive services that both you and Bob provide at Morro Rock are outstanding.”

Below is the information to send a hard copy letter to the Director of the CA State Parks and two other important people who need to hear how you think about the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch.

Please use a stamped envelope addressed to the following people.

Contact California State Parks.

Lisa Mangat, Director
California State Parks
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA  94296

Copies should be sent to the following people.

Contact the San Luis Obispo, Hearst Castle Region, CA State Parks. 

Brooke Gutierrez, Director
CA State Parks
750 Hearst Castle Road
San Simeon, CA 93452
(805) 927-2068
(805) 927-2035

Contact the nonprofit  Central Coast State Parks Assoc. under CA State Parks.

Mary Golden, Executive Director
Central Coast State Parks Association
Museum of Natural History
20 State Park Road
Morro Bay, CA 93442

805.772.2694×102 Office
805.748.8278 Cell  or

We kindly thank you for your efforts to support our work.

Most sincerely,
Bob Isenberg and Heather O’Connor

Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch

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A little less wind in our sails…

Dropping off a perch Photo by Cleve Nash

Dropping off a perch                                         Photo by Cleve Nash

Observation date: August 2015

I think it only fair that I share with you the reason that you haven’t heard from us since July 19, 2015 and I do apologize for it.

We, the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization. Heather and I, have been trying to settle our differences with the Central Coast State Parks Association, another private 501(c)(3) that has been given control of products and services that are sold on CA State Park property. These include everything from marina rentals/leases, toys to hot dogs. Because we have been a fixture so long in Morro Bay, we were urged by the CA State Parks, Morro Bay Museum of Natural History, docents and Morro Bay City Council, Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Center people to become part of it so that we would be able to collect donations and sell souvenirs, these profits going to student scholarships. This we did for some time after mandatory docent training and a few other hoops we had to jump through.

What looked to be a good thing in the beginning with lots of promises made to us soon turned into a can of worms. After half a year of giving everything and receiving nothing, we felt it was time to talk. After half a year of negotiations it got no better. One of the only good things that came out of it, was that we were able to give a $1,000 scholarship to a CalPoly biology student. This was collection of donations and souvenir sales. None of this might have happened if CCSPA , a nonprofit under CA State Parks, had its way with Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch.

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch has been a fine running machine in which no one is compensated for anything and everything we have given has been with pride, honesty and integrity.

We felt that it was not right for them to take everything and give nothing in return. We ask for no financial support only that we be able to function, raise money for another CalPoly Biology Scholarship and pay our bills.

Bob still frequents the “Rock,” but very little this time of year. The young have been run off and the next breeding season is four months away, but we’ll be there to capture all the excitement in words and photos on our website.

Happy trails, Bob

*Item:   Bob And Heather had invested over 50K in equipment and thousands of hours to make all of this happen. We are sorry the powers that be cannot see how beneficial the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch is in our community, in educating the public about the peregrines with first-hand observations at Morro Rock, only 196 yards to the diving board hole which has been a frequent nest site. People return year after year and often from great distance feeling a close participation in the work that we do.

Shell Beach juvenile peregrine Photo by Cleve Nash

Shell Beach juvenile peregrine                                    Photo by Cleve Nash

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Earthwatch Expedition 2015…

This is Heather speaking.

While the adult peregrines were busy teaching their juveniles their life skills, I went off on a tangent to explore something I’d like to share with you… All photos are mine.

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Common Dolphin          Photo by Heather O’Connor

Since I moved to California in 2011, I always wanted to learn more about whales and to volunteer again for Earthwatch.  Searching the website, I found a project that would be perfect. “Whales and Dolphins Under the California Sun”

On Summer Solstice, June 21st, I was taking the AMTRAK “Pacific Surfliner” train south along the coastline. It arrived in San Juan Capistrano and I taxied to meet Warren Stortroen, a well known Earthwatch volunteer,  and then we headed  to the  project headquarters at Dana Point. I’d be on Team 1 with five other volunteers.

The first night, the Principal Investigator, Dr. Lei Lani Stelle of the University of Redlands, introduced us to the details of the project telling us how important a long range study was. We would be collecting base line data.  Collisions between whales and boats have been steadily on the rise due to more activity in commercial marine shipping and travel and increased numbers of people on pleasure and fishing crafts. Disturbances have been shown to alter the activities of traveling and foraging whales and dolphins. Even stand-up paddle boards and kayaks could be included for disturbing the normal behavior of marine mammals. You know how you feel when interrupted continuously! It cannot be good for their survival, in my opinion, which seems to match other people’s ideas.

The PI, college grad students and Team 1 were ready to get going! After we made our own breakfasts, packed lunch, days were spent taking GPS locations and time of all whales, dolphins, ships, ferries, fishing and pleasure boats, kayaks and paddle boarders.

Heading out to sea at the harbor entrance, there were buoys with the familiar reclining Sea Lions.

Seal lions reclining on the Dana Point buoy

Navigation buoy at Dana Point                 Photo by Heather O’Connor

I took my newly purchased 70D Canon camera with the 100-400mm lens. Great fun “rocking and rolling” and shooting the most wonderful dolphins and whales from the boats that we used!

Observations and photography were made from hired boats and some from onshore.

 Photo by Heather O'Connor

Leaping dolphin

Long-beaked and Short-beaked Common Dolphins in great numbers leapt and frolicked. Shane Keena, husband to the PI and a very fine photographer, could identify the difference between the two easily!  He gave me some highly appreciated photography tips, too.

They and Bottlenose Dolphins were seen miles off Dana Point. Hours were spent on our various duties of data collection which we alternated amongst us.

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Distinctive markings on the Risso’s Dolphin

The shape of the whale and dolphin dorsal fins can be used to identify individuals. Notches and unusual shapes are noted. Photos of them are very valuable. Three graduate and college students taught us all our duties when the PI was busy. They’d been working on this project out of their own personal fascination and chosen course of study.

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Team 1 observers and Lei Lani

After a ferry to Avalon on Catalina Island, we took a smaller hired boat to collect data on the Risso’s Dolphins, which was a new species for me! It had a blunt forehead and becomes white with age due to scarring. I understand they are a very scrappy dolphin, often attacking each other.

Close inshore we passed a rocky beach with numerous Sea Lions and a Harbor Seal. Later in the day, we spent a few hours exploring Avalon on our own before returning to the Dana Point Ferry.

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Sea Lions on Catalina Island

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Sea Lion snagged with fish hook and lure on Navigation buoy

We passed another navigation buoy with Sea Lions and one unfortunately snagged with fishing gear.

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Fishing lure wound on Sea Lion …   Something that shouldn’t happen

One afternoon, my wish came true. I’d seen Blue Whales in books and knew they were the largest whale out there, so there it was!

Photo by Heather O'Connor

Whale watching boat aiming  to get a bit too close to the Blue Whale, in my opinion

It blew, it spouted, it rose to the surface and showed its immensely long body to us. Its dorsal fin is set far back on its body, so I saw lots of back before the tiny dorsal fin showed itself. And then the fluke was flipped up, so as to show off or say “Hello.”  I guess just normal whale behavior.  So satisfying !

Evenings were spent helping with dinner and cleaning up, then going over the data that we had collected.

Some afternoons were spent at the condominium, inputting data into the computer to produce a fascinating report of all we had seen. A visual report making sense of the numbers. A map of the transects that we worked !

Dana Point, CA

The data goes here… GPS points, species, weather, etc.

This research produces a real life demonstration of the interaction between people and marine mammals.

This was my 11th Earthwatch Expedition as a volunteer to collect much needed data for the sake of science and the Earth. I couldn’t have spent my time doing anything better than this!

Photos by Heather O'Connor

Warren Stortroen, his 88th Earthwatch Expedition

Warren, who I mentioned earlier, was on his 88th expedition! So glad to have met him.  Ever since he retired in 1996, he’s made it his priority to continually contribute his volunteer energy to Earthwatch.  An admirable effort, I’d say!

Curious about the oceans,


Common Dolphin    Photo by Heather O'Connor

Long-beaked Common Dolphin                    Photo by Heather O’Connor

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Probable cause…

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Observation date: 19 July 2015 A summer thunderstorm hit the Central Coast of California last night and today leaving a much needed inch and three quarters of much needed rain. Aside from the good quenching in drought ridden California, it … Continue reading

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