01/31/09 Prairie and Peregrine Nest Sites
Cheryl, Stefanie and I went out to see if we could
find the prairie falcons at their eyrie. On the way we saw a
redshouldered hawk in a tree. It’s a 2+ mile walk in to the site. We
were on the trail and partway to the eyrie around 10 am and stopped
along the trail to scope out the back side of the rock outcrop where
last year’s eyrie was located. Cheryl noticed a bird moving up from
the valley to a rock. When we got the scope on it, we saw a prairie
falcon, probably the female. We watched for awhile, then continued
on up the trail to the front side of the eyrie, hoping for a PRFA on
the top of the rocks at a closer point.
At 10:45 we were in front of the rock outcropping and moved slightly
off trail and set up our scopes, set ourselves and a snack in among
the sage and manzanita and watched. Immediately a pair of thrashers
showed up on a nearby bush, stayed for short time and then moved to
the far side of the bushes. We heard them singing periodically for
the next 1 1/2 hours.
At 11 we saw a golden eagle on a distant ridge. It moved toward us,
then back to the ridge where it was chased and hit by a redtail.
Several other redtails were in the air. Two were on distant
At about 12:30 we left and moved back to our original location looking
at the eyrie. The only active bird was an Anna’s hummingbird
practicing its aerial dives. The sun is in perfect position to show
us details of the rock. We scope for a long time and don’t see a
As we headed back down the trail we saw another golden eagle, heard a
nearby redtail (or possibly a jay imitating a redtail). Another
redtail was sitting on a low tree and flew off as we got closer.
We returned to the car and drove to Pine Canyon, stopping several
times along the way. Once we stopped to check out something that
looked like an owl in an oak tree. It was only an owl-shaped branch.
We stop to look at a redtail with a very light colored chest shining
in the mid afternoon light from a tree top on a ridge above the road.
A kestrel flew off a wire and flew low over the grass.
By 3:15 we had hiked into the peregrine nest site. There were
climbers on the rock face of the nest cliff so we had little hope of
seeing the peregrines. We had barely stepped into the meadow below
the nest site where a peregrine flew out of the cave and headed south,
circling and rising as it moved away from the nest area. It looked
large enough to be a falcon. After about 15 minutes of flying, it
headed to the west and disappeared.
Several redtails flew into the canyon. We were hoping the peregrines
would notice and come to chase them out, but the redtails seem to have
the space to themselves. There were 6-8 turkey vultures in the area
also, one of which dives and hits another turkey vulture, something
none of us had ever seen before. The climbers had gotten to the top
of the rock face by then, pulling up their ropes.
At 3:59 we see and hear two peregrines flying in from the opposite
side of the canyon. The falcon lands in a hole below Pyramid Rock and
the tiercel flies off to the south. Both are e-chupping.
We get our scopes on the falcon. She is the same one that was at this
site last month, the third falcon here since October. (Cassie, the
resident falcon for the last several years, then a banded falcon we
nicknamed Z, and this falcon who showed up within a week of the time
we first saw Z.) We have called her X for now. She has a
high-pitched e-chup, wide malar stripes, pale yellow cere, light
yellow talons (not as light as her cere). Her tail is darker than her
back. She shows us both legs and we are able to see she is not
Shortly after 4, a Cooper’s Hawk flies by. The falcon in unconcerned
and lets it fly through her territory. She coughs up a very large
pellet which falls to the canyon below.
We have several cows sharing our meadow with us. They watch us and we
watch them as they graze and move behind us. They return and head
back in the direction they came from, this time passing in front of
us, looking warily at us.
We leave at 4:30 and head home, leaving the falcon sitting in the hole
in the rock face.
We have a pair at the peregrine site. We saw one prairie falcon at
their eyrie. We will go back again in a month or so to check them