Off-Season Monitoring

Kanit, Cheryl, Joy and I went to the canyon at Sensitive Site #1 on Sunday, 11/30/08.

We got a ride into the canyon with the ranger on an open-backed 4 wheel drive vehicle.  Joy and I in the front could hear Kanit and Cheryl in the outside squealing periodically as we got very close to the trail’s edge.  The ranger drove us to our meadow and we piled out, Kanit and Cheryl saying it had been like a fun amusement park ride.

The ranger had not seen the peregrines so she stayed with us while we set up our scopes.

Almost immediately, both birds took off flying, then one settled into a hole in the rock.  We got a scope on her.  It was apparent that this was not the usual male and not the usual female.  This one had a full dark hood, yellow talons, pale cere.  The male of the usual pair is 12.5 and has dark orange talons and an orange cere.  The female of the pair has malar stripes.  After a brief discussion about the possibility of losing color in a few months (we decided that wasn’t possible) we noticed bands on the legs of this bird.  The VID band is on the left while the male’s VID band is on the right.  The usual female of the pair is not banded.  From the distance of the canyon floor to the cliff face, it’s not possible to read a band.  We didn’t get a clear look at the other bird to confirm band or talon color or any markings.

At 11:30 we decided to head for the ridge top.  A 30 minute walk out of the canyon, a 20 minute drive, a 45 minute hike to the ridge and we set up our scopes.

An hour later, both birds were in the air flying, the female going after a turkey vulture, hitting it several times.  She returned and settled on the top of the nest rock and all 4 scopes turned on her.  She showed us only the bottom letter of the band (Z).  Three of the 4 of us that saw the band agreed on the letter (I didn’t get the band in my scope, being behind bushes that obscured the view and not wanting to move too much, especially knowing there were clear views from the other scopes).

She flew and we left shortly after that with a job to do.

I went back on 12/2 and immediately saw the male.  This time I was able to get a clear look at him—orange talons, orange cere, pale grey back.  A short flight and a landing on another outcrop and I was able to read his band and confirm him the same male as previously at the nest site.  He flew again and landed on top of the nest rock.  In all, he stayed in sight for more than 2 hours.

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He took off from the nest rock and dove into the canyon, then started a trans-canyon ledge display.  Flying the 1/4 mile of the canyon, LOUDLY e-chupping  (a constant one-word e-chup e-chup e-chupe-chup e-chup e-chup e-chup e-chup the length of the canyon—a territorial e-chup.  I heard his e-chup change to a cakcakcak and heard another bird scream as he hit it or came close—he was out of my sight at that time.  He flew off and I left.

On 12/7, Cheryl and I went back to the canyon ridge, spotting a coyote on the road behind the car.  He headed up the hill off trail while we followed on trail.  He was much faster than we were.

img_1106It was wonderfully foggy, clearing intermittently.  Except for one brief sighting of a peregrine and one brief sighting of a golden eagle, we saw nothing.  We moved down into the canyon and again saw no peregrines.  We left cold, tired and disappointed.

On 12/9, I headed out again.  When I was getting my gear out of the car I heard and then saw an acorn woodpecker pecking away but got distracted by a pair of western bluebirds pecking at the window of my car.  The female was sitting 2 feet away from me on a barbed wire fence and the male was trying to chase off its reflection in the window of my car.  Some play, some copulation, some coughing up of a pellet (the birds),  and then I headed up the trail.

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The tiercel was on one of his favorite rock outcroppings.  He stayed for about 10 minutes, then left.  I could hear him on the rock race e-chupping occasionally.  At 10:30, from across the canyon I could hear wailing.  With very little chance of spotting anything at 1/3 mile, I turned my scope in the direction of the wailing and spotted a peregrine shape in a tree on the opposite ridge.  Lucky find.  I didn’t notice until a few minutes later that there was a second peregrine in the same tree, just a little to the left of the first one I spotted.  They sat there for 2 1/2 hours while I watched.  At 1pm they both flew, chasing a pair of redtails and a pair of turkey vultures.  They flew to my side of the canyon but the sun was in my face and I didn’t get a clear enough view to see if there were bands on the bird and certainly had no chance to read it.  Neither one settled down to stay.  I left around 2 pm, spotting a sharpshinned hawk flying over the trail, landing on a branch in front of me, then leaving again.  And again a coyote, this time on the trail behind me.

The bluebirds were gone when I got back to the car having left some whitewash behind.

Four trips to the canyon ridge in 1 1/2 weeks.  It’s getting too close to the solstice and the start of pair bonding so I won’t be heading back up there.  Maybe a reading with a telescope will be possible.

I did head up again, this time on 12/16.   It was raining steadily and muddy all the way up.  The usual 40-45 minute hike up took 50 minutes.   On the ridge trail about 20 feet in front of me, I spotted a coyote before it heard me.  When it noticed, it took off up the trail at a run.  I didn’t see it again but I’m sure it moved off the trail a bit ahead of me and watched as I passed it.

When I got to the nest area, nothing was in sight.  It was still raining but the climb had warmed me well.  I took off my gloves and set up the scope to be ready.  I should have brought an umbrella to keep the rain off.  I heard two different sets of e-chups and watched as a peregrine took off from the rock face, circle around once and fly back into the nest cave.

After an hour, the clouds cleared, the sun came out.   With rain still around, there was a rainbow northwest of the cave.

A out came a peregrine, again flying around.  This time it landed on Sentinel Rock.  Immediately, it was clear this was not the 12 year old male (this one did not have the orange talons of the old male).  I had the scope on it and saw a peregrine with a bright yellow cere, yellow talons and thick malar stripes.   Not the banded bird we had seen last week?  It stretched out the left leg to scratch its head and I couldn’t see a band.

It was e-chupping nearly constantly with a high pitched e-chup, looking around.  After about 10 minutes it turned around, pooped, showed me two bare legs as it flew away.

So we have a 4th peregrine in the territory.  I’m not sure if this is common in a territory in the non-breeding season when there is a full complement of adult birds.
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More questions to answer.  I’m a little afraid to go back and find another new bird.  I did hear two peregrines today but saw only the one.   It was small enough that it could have been a male and with the higher pitched voice, it’s possible.

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Site Monitoring 5/24/08

Last week we had a temperature of 98 with hot sun, hot breezes, thin
shade. Today it was 45-50, cold wind, overcast skies, sprinkles.
Hard to believe it was the same place a week later.

Cheryl and I arrived on the hilltop at 9:21, having hiked in to the hilltop opposite the cliff site.

One eyas was standing on some prey, eating. Both falcon and tiercel
were on Sentinel Rock.

A few minutes later, the second eyas moved from the left rear of the
cave to the right side. The tiercel flew off.

At 9:30 the falcon flew into the scrape and ate the bird the eyas had
been eating. We heard wailing. At 9:43, she flew to Sentinel and at
10:03 she flew north wailing.

Both eyases are up briefly, then they lie down side by side. We are
thinking one male and one female. But at 1/3 mile away, we are still
not certain.

10:20 we hear cakking in front of the nest rock and one peregrine
flies past. We see the falcon on Bindi Rock.

She is looking around. We see a man in a blue jacket, red packpack ,
grey hair, and binoculars on the trail directly behind Bindi Rock. He
and Cheryl look through their binos at each other. He moves north,
stopping periodically to look down through his binoculars. On
Thursday someone posted to a birding listserve seeing two downy
peregrine chicks at this sits and described perfectly how to find
them, despite the policy of Birding Ethics (from
the American Birding Association) against the revealing of nests of
rare birds. Based on the way he is looking for something specific, we
think this is the person who posted this site or someone who read
about it and is looking for the scrape. It is not a random birder.

At 10:27, the falcon flies to Sentinel and two minutes later the same
man is now moving back along the trail to the south, again stopping
periodically to scan with his binoculars. We don’t think he’s found
the peregrines because he doesn’t stop and look for long. This even
though the falcon is sitting on a rock about 200 feet in front of him.
He continues to move south down the trail and out of sight.

At 11:02 we hear cakking. The falcon is alert and both eyases are
up, preening.

At 11:32 we find the tiercel on South Rock. Ten minutes later he
flies toward the nest scrape and stoops above the climbing rock. The falcon
remains on Sentinel.

At 12:28 the falcon flies to South Rock and sits just above where the
tiercel had been sitting earlier.
12:31 one eyas is on the porch flapping. At 12:46 the second eyas
joins the first. Both are flapping their wings. One eyas stands on
the edge and looks down.

At 12:54 the falcon flapped and jumped and disappeared behind South
Rock. A minute later she is on Sentinel wailing. The eyases are now
in the rear of the cave also wailing.

12:56 Both eyases are again on the porch wailing. A swift flies into
its nest in the ceiling of the cave and one eyas watches it come and
go. As it’s watching, it trips on the edge of the porch. It recovers
its balance.

1:07 one eyas is wailing and walks to the far right edge of the porch,
still wailing.

1:13 the falcon flies, e-chups and the tiercel flies in from the north
and there is a side-by-side food exchange. The falcon goes into the
scrape and the eyases run to the food. She feeds them.

At 1:19 she leaves and returns to Sentinel. The eyases are on the
porch and seem to be watching her. They do some head bobbing. One
is particularly good at preening its tail feathers, pulling and
separating feathers.

1:45 both eyases are wailing, sitting together on the porch. We get a
good look at them. One is larger and lighter in color. The smaller
one is darker on the breast. Both have some brown on the sides of
their breast. We’ve decided it’s one male and one female.

We get distracted for awhile. Cheryl starts to lean back on her
backpack and sees a pair of brown ears coming up the hill below us.
She first thinks mountain lion and then realizes it’s a young coyote.
He sees us and stops. He sits and watches us and we watch him. He
sticks his muzzle in the air and sniffs, then turns and sniffs again,
turns to the other side and sniffs. He opens his mouth and tastes the
air, then sniffs again. He starts barking at us. I pulled out my
phone and started to record him and his barking. This goes on for
several minutes and we get up to discourage him. He turns around and
starts to the right and downhill. Just as he disappears, we hear him
bark again. We walk down hill toward him and he moves to the right
away from us. He’s going to be trouble some day. If we see him
again, we will be more aggressive to scare him

2:28 the falcon flies to South Rock, this time sitting on top.

At 2:30 two men are climbing up and going behind the nest cave. The
falcon leaves South Rock at 2:42 and stoops behind the nest rock.

At 2:50 both eyases are up and on the porch. We see 4 people heading
for the rock and at 3:04 the tiercel is stooping and cakking. He
attacks again at 3:13 and stoops twice. And again two minutes later.
At 3:17 a girl is climbing through the hole in the rock to the left of
the nest cave. We hear e-chups and wailing.

Two of the people have left and are on another rock to the north. We
hear the others talking somewhere above the climbing rock.

At 3:38 the falcon stoops on a turkey vulture and soars above the nest
cave cakking.

We pack up and leave.

As we are approaching Coyote Alley, we see a very large dark bird take
off from the ground about 100 feet in front of us, along the trail.
It’s a golden eagle. If we’d been a little more alert we might have
been able to see it and stop and get a better look to see if it was
eating. It flies and we follow it with our binoculars. In the air
nearby is a pair of adult redtails, talons down. We watch for a
talon-linked skydance but they move behind some trees on the ridge.
We continue on down the hill and out.

The eyases are 29-30 days old.

Peregrine Site Monitoring 04/26/08 – Hatch!

Cheryl, Paulette, Kanit and I arrived at the hilltop view point at 9:45. The falcon is on the scrape and the tiercel is to the left of the ‘refrigerator’.

At 10:20 the male flies and at 10:24 he flies into the scrape, e-chupping. And then out, similar to Thursday evening’s in-and-out activity.

At 11:08, the falcon leaves and we hear wailing. At 11:10 the male returns and enters the scrape — with food!!

At 11:12 the falcon returns, wailing. The male eats one bite, then leaves at 11:13. with e-chups.

11:35 Two climbers are calling from on top of the rock outcrop to the north. The male is in his preening spot in the heart shaped hole.

12:14 The falcon comes to the porch. She spreads her tail out, spreads her wings and puts her head down and lays on the rock. A minute later she returns to the scrape.

12:20 She is again sunbathing on the porch.

At 12:32 She is again on the porch. looking around, then heads back to the scrape.

12:42, the male returns with e-chups. At 12:44, the falcon flies to a food stash, then heads south.

The falcon is cakking to the south and the male seems to be listening. At 12:49 the female is back again, with food. We see her feeding babies!!

We have a hatch!

At 12:54 she is done feeding and she eats. When feeding, she is moving her head to two different spots, bobbing up and down feeding.

12:55 she settles back down

1:12 and two men are on top of the nest rock

1:14 the falcon moves to the porch and the men are leaving. The male returns and then leaves at 1:15. The falcon returns to the scrape.

1:17 The same two men move to the front of the rock. The falcon is barely seen, making herself small in the scrape. The men are leaning down over the rock face, throwing rocks, trying to get them into the cave. The falcon continues to make herself small in the scrape. I take several photos showing the men clearly. (photos later sent to naturalist in adjacent jurisdiction who works with scrape jurisdiction to post signs asking people to stay out of the sensitive nesting area)

At 12:24 the men leave

1:29 The falcon leaves. At 1:32 the male returns.

1:55 We hear cakking from the west. The female is following a golden eagle which flies in from the west over our heads. The male leaves the scrape.

1:59 The male returns

2:04 The male is off the babies, looking around. At 2:05, he settles back on the babies.

We hear quail bubbling in the brush to our north.

At 2:35 the male is talking to the eyases. At 2:40 the falcon flies up, circles, chases an RTHA and disappears. At 3:33 the male moves onto the porch and flies off a minute later. At 3:39 is he back.

3:40 The falcon brings food and the male leaves. We hear e-chupping to the babies, which are being fed.

We pack up and leave, having seen several feedings.  On the way out, we see several coyotes.