Category Archives: Morro Rock

Things are not always what they seem to be…

Photo by Bob Isenberg With the holidays coming, we have had many people visiting the rock in Morro Bay. The falcons are not disappointing many of them. They are going through pre-courtship, sitting closer and closer together and vocalizing as … Continue reading

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We have had quite a hot spell in Morro Bay, 85°F on October 17th with offshore winds in the morning up to 20 mph. Then it changes to on shore around noon with a cooling breeze off the 52°F Pacific … Continue reading

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A first look around…

Narration and videography by Bob Isenberg.

When we go out to search for the peregrines every day, we see this view of Morro Bay, California, USA with a few weather variations. We enjoy calm to blustery winds, bright sun or fogginess and variable temperatures. All delightful. There is a steady stream of people from all over searching for a view of these magnificent birds.

“Education though observation.” Heather

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Pitched battle…

Pitched battle...

This is the seventh in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock.”
A little town about twelve miles north of Morro Bay called Cayucos, somewhat quaint, no stop signs or signal lights. The main drag is about three blocks long, with a pier, a beach and a few pubs. It was settled by Swiss Italian dairymen and Portuguese laborers. Behind the town is a range of mountains, small in size, it rises up. On top is a reservoir that was built for a domestic water supply.
About three years ago, a pair of bald eagles took up residence around the lake which is fed by several streams which held steel-head trout, this being a great food source for the eagles plus catfish, carp, etc. No one can remember if they ever nested there, but that first year they had three young. Th following year they had two young.
In the late summer they got adventurous and traveled around. Needless to say, they came to Morro Rock and were greeted by a cast of falcons. Both males and females from north and south sides joined in to what would become a very exciting ten minute pitched battle. I watched as the two large dark birds approached the south side of Morro Rock over the jetty from the north. I knew they weren’t vultures; their wings were too flat. In a moment they were over Cleve and me. The two south side falcons were already coming down on the eagles at speed. They split the two birds and singled out one. The other beat it around the corner to the north side soon to be intercepted by the north side pair of falcons. By this time there is a lot of screaming up and down the parking lot. Cleve managed to get off a few shots with his Canon 500mm. I didn’t get to see what happened on the north side, but we all heard it. The young bald eagles retired with a few less rump feathers, but none the worse. They returned three more times in the next four weeks.
The adults did not nest this year, but they are still at the Whale Rock Reservoir. Jack and Pedra Clayton, a couple local birders, saw them today along with pintail, gadwall and other assorted waterfowl.
Happy trails, Bob
P.S. Whale Rock Reservoir – northbound on Highway 1, turn right on Old Creek Road, first signal before Cayucos, continue Old Creek Road to Cottontail Creek Road, turn left, find a pull-off and enjoy.

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Over the last few weeks…

A young American Kestrel.  Photo by Cleve Nash

I’ve been away from the notebook and pen for some time tying up some loose ends. I’ll try to get you up to speed. Over the last few weeks things have been slow. The adults have chased off all of their young on both sides of “the rock.” Yesterday there were five Red-tailed Hawks circling the rock up high. Both pairs of falcons were busy chasing them with a lot of vocalizing and high speed stoops.
A young female Kestrel circled the rock from seaward passing right in front of the male and female resident falcons and they did not give chase. The Kestrel, previously known as a sparrow hawk, landed in a bare willow at the top of a rock sprawl and spent twenty minutes just looking around still in plain sight of the falcons and they still did not give chase. The Kestrel left by way of the sand spit, probably a juvenile looking for a home.
The first of the migrating birds of prey have started to arrive along the Central Coast of California. White-tailed Kites, Ferruginous Hawks, Merlins, Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks. A few flocks of ducks, but no geese yet in the estuary.
Heather has been supporting the eye surgeons from here to UCLA with her fourth lens replacement to come next week. We all wish her the best of luck.
Happy trails, Bob

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Best times to photograph peregrines at Morro Rock, Morro Bay, CA.

Hi Randy, You asked about the best season to watch and photograph the falcons. My favorite time is January, February and March. This is the time you’ll see high speed acrobatics by the tiercel during this courtship and breeding time. … Continue reading

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Madame Rue…

Madame Rue...

This is the sixth in a series of tales about the “famous and not-so-famous birds of Morro Rock.”
She was a fledgling falcon just out of the nest her first day. She was one of three chicks hatched that spring of ’08 on the south side of Morro Rock. Nothing special or unusual about her appearance or abilities, just a “plain vanilla” falcon until she landed on a narrow ledge on her first flight. The ledge and the rocks behind were covered with foliage, a nice spray of yellow flowers and some green vines. A nice backdrop for photos. If she were a bull they would call her “Ferdinand,” but with the floral above and around her she looked like a gypsy until we saw her eating the vine growing around her. Three leaves on a stem, it must be poison oak. Every one was astounded to see this. In the few months she was around the rock, she did well being fed by her parents, but we still caught glimpses of her with her favorite snack. She was given the name Madame Rue, you know “the gypsy with the gold capped tooth.” She’s got a rock with some flowers and some vines (“selling little bottles of …….”)
Happy trails, Bob P.S. If you know the rest of the lyrics you’re showing your age!

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Peregrine on the wing…

Peregrine on the wing...

Article and photo by Neil Farrell, Tolosa Press

The article in the following post is what locals read when the Bay News was delivered about town. The people attending the release of the juvenile were Jeri Roberts, skilled rehabilitator of falcons, Brian Roberts, her husband, Bob Isenberg, of Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch, Joyce Cory, birdwatching blogger, Neill Farrell, writer, Jeremiah and Jason of the Harbor Patrrol and me. How fortunate we were to see this exciting event. ~Heather

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Peregrine Saved and Released in Morro Bay…

Peregrine Saved and  Released in Morro Bay...

Article and photo by Neil Farrell, Tolosa Press

A juvenile female peregrine falcon is flying once again over Morro Bay Harbor after being rescued, rehabbed and released by Pacific Wildlife Care.
On Saturday, Jeri Roberts of PWC, along with peregrine researchers and friends, hitched a ride with the harbor patrol to the Sandspit at Sandal’s Cove to release the bird back into the wild. There she will possibly rejoin three siblings, part of a brood that hatched and fledged off Morro Rock this season.
The birds were hatched around Easter and flew their nest high up on the southwest side of the Rock on May 22, said Bob Isenberg, of the group Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch (see: . This bird was found June 26 with a broken wing, wallowing in the water off the Sandspit. She was going to die, but someone gathered the bird up and set in motion its salvation.
PWC took the bird in at its triage center on the power plant property. Roberts said it was examined by a veterinarian, who diagnosed the wing break. “He prescribed the human equivalent of bed rest,” said Roberts.
So the bird was confined in a crate to allow the wing to heal itself. That presents a problem for a critter that can fly 200 mph and is the fastest animal on earth.
“They can ‘de-condition’ rapidly,” explained Roberts, so the plan was to get the bird moving around again as quickly as possible.
“Peregrines are high strung,” she said, “and the triage center has a lot of activity, a lot of noise.” So the bird was transferred to Roberts’ home in Prefumo Canyon. There she has graduated sizes of flight cages, from 6-foot, to 12’, then a 15’ X 10’ and eventually into a 30-foot flight cage.
Though she has another peregrine that along with a Merlin, are used for PWC’s educational programs, they don’t take to company very well.
“You can’t mix two peregrines together,” she said, “they will kill each other.” Playing nice also apparently doesn’t apply for the parent birds either, that’s why they had to release this one on the Sandspit instead of at Morro Rock. Its parents would likely drive her off and Roberts said they would probably have to rescue it again.
In the big flight cage, Roberts said the falcon shared time with an owl also being rehabbed. “They traded off,” she explained. “We had this whole diurnal and nocturnal thing going. I’d take the peregrine out in daylight and the owl would come out at night. We try to get the birds back out into the wild as soon as possible.”
It took about eight weeks to finally release the falcon, which isn’t cheap for an all-volunteer non-profit organization. The falcon ate two 5-week old quail a day, costing more than $5 a day.
“We did right by the bird,” said Roberts. “It’s an expensive undertaking, with x-rays, vet visits, the good diet and feather supplements. She was still growing feathers. It’s turned out very well.”
Once nearing extinction due primarily to habitat loss and poisoning with DDT. The peregrine falcons have made a remarkable comeback since the population hit rock bottom in the 1980s.
Now the four young falcons will have to carve out a niche for themselves but not necessarily here. Falcons are known for traveling far from home to settle down.
For instance, birds that have been tagged locally have shown up in the Channel Islands, Los Angeles and even San Diego.
Isenberg said peregrines have been documented nesting up and down the Central Coast spaced out about every 8-10 miles. Locally there are pairs in Montaña de Oro, Morro Rock, Hollister Peak, Avila Beach, Pismo and on down.
According to Wikipedia, peregrine falcons are the second most widely spread species of bird in the world. About the only place they are not found is Antarctica and above the Arctic Circle.
The birds have adapted to urban living too, nesting on tall buildings and even cathedrals in many large cities. Oddly enough, in the cities, a falcon’s main prey is pigeon, which Wikipedia said is the most widely spread species. On the Sandspit, the falcons have apparently been snacking on snowy plovers.

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Strength and stamina… part 1

Video by Bob Isenberg

Opening the box to release the rehabilitated juvenile peregrine

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