A few inches apart…

A few inches apart...

One warm sunny day and everything starts happening. Breeding is nearly in full swing. About three times within a four hour period on their arrival to the “rock,” the south side falcons flew into the diving board eyrie and spent some time in the back not visible to the three of us watching intently. After about five minutes, the tiercel (male falcon) appeared on the diving board, with a short jump, he was airborne and off around the face of Morro Rock. A short time later, the falcon (female falcon) did almost the same, but flew to the “chimney” and perched. Within a few minutes, the tiercel returned with prey. She spotted him incoming from the west over the water as she flew from the chimney which alerted us to see him. They were converging on the eyrie from opposite directions. The female landing first, one second later, the male landed. Before he got his balance she had taken the prey from him and was back on the “chimney” plucking. While she ate, he chased vultures. She left the prey after a few bites and then left it for him to finish. For the last few days, they have been standing a few inches apart with up and down head movement almost like they were talking. I wish I knew what they were saying.

Also, today, the vultures are around their old nest site landing behind the rock where last year’s chick “Spec” (see story dated: Tuesday, August 7, 2012 ) was first seen. I have not seen any coupling yet, but I will keep on top of it.

The next four or five weeks will be prime time for the falcons as they will be at the height of the breeding season and do not leave “the rock” much!
Happy trails, Bob

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A Golden voyage…

Photo of last year’s young Golden Eagles by Cleve Nash

Cleve Nash, our resident photographer, and I took a ride out to Creston, CA, where my daughter and her family live. There had been numerous eagles, Golden and Bald, around her pond on her property. A few waterfowl and kingfishers, but no eagles.

On our way home, we took the back way down Highway 229 then went towards Margarita Lake. We stopped by the Golden Eagle nest that Cleve had filmed last year with two young in the nest. No activity around the nest yet, but one perched about 100 yards off in a Digger Pine. Not a quarter of a mile down the road, we came upon three Bald Eagles all in the same tree, one adult and two “juvies” (juveniles). As we watched, three wild hogs ran across a newly planted oat field. Still watching the three eagles, a Prairie Falcon flew over the highway, then a Golden Eagle perched in a pine 500 yards away. All in all, it was a great day away from the busy-ness of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival weekend at Morro Rock.
Update on the injured Golden Eagle: His appetite is great; he ate a big rat today.
Happy trails, Bob

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Outside…

Outside...

Photo by Bob Isenberg
Outside at “the Rock” during the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, visitors use spotting scopes set up to see the peregrines and have all their questions answered.

The Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival was a great success! The weather was gorgeous, 70+° F . On Friday, numerous leader-led groups of birders stopped by to learn about the peregrines. On a following day, “the Rock” was another story with 30+mph winds and high surf so the gate to our special place where we set up our spotting scopes and chairs was locked. Without my truck and camper, I had no windbreak for my equipment.

On Friday, my daughter called from her inland ranch while I was at “the Rock” and said, “I have a Golden Eagle by my pond and it’s injured!” I told her what to do. She got it into a portable dog kennel with the help of two adults, two “tweeners” and one dog. Ninety minutes later and a quarter of a mile from where it was first found, it was secure and ready to be taken to town and Pacific Wildlife Care. They told us it was a male and had a large wound in the patagium* in the wing with a small whole in an unbroken bone. We’ll keep you up to date on its recovery.
Happy trails, Bob

*A thin membrane extending between the body and a limb to form a wing or winglike extension.

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Inside…

Inside...

Photo by Heather O’Connor
Inside at the Bazaar of the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, we set up our booth showing “This is what we do.” visitors photo with our hats, t-shirts and binocular covers along with Cleve Nash’s photographic display which benefits Pacific Wildlife Care.

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Luncheon on the Bay…

Luncheon on the Bay...
Photo by Cleve Nash

The photo accompanying this text is of our transient female falcon, “Doris,” in her fifth year of wintering in nearby Baywood Park. She is seen here with a Teal. The photo was shot by Cleve Nash from behind the little coffee shop on 2nd Street. She landed in her favorite tree, a cypress, where she decapitated it, plumed it and consumed it.

A few notes to bring you good followers up to speed on what’s been happening on Morro Rock and in the area. Breeding is happening on both sides of the rock, not quite in full swing, but at least a couple times a day copulating falcons have been observed. There could be more when they are out of view.
Red Tailed Hawks abound here every day and the peregrines chase them incessantly. I’m sure this adds to the excitement, often after high speed combat, they come to one of her bedroom rocks and fool around again.
On the lighter side, a young adult kestrel male has visited us and perched up high in a willow run for the last five days. He’s very bright in coloring and gorgeous to look at. On the second day, the resident male falcon stooped on him and missed. The kestrel dove deep into the willows beneath him then back up on the same perch in a minute. The male falcon can see him from where he sits, but has not dived on him since. He’s either very confident in his ability to elude or very stupid.
Happy trails, Bob
P.S. See you at the Morro Bay Winter Bird Festival, January 18-21, 2013. http://www.morrobaybirdfestival.org

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Never too young to learn…

Never too young to learn...

The other day, sitting at the rock in my usual location, binoculars in hand, tripod and spotting scope mounted at the ready, I was approached by two young precocious youngsters with their parents.
The smaller of the two said, “I know what you’re looking at.”
“Really?” I replied, “What’s that?”
At the same time, brother and sister replied, “Peregrine falcons. They’re the fastest thing in the whole wide world.”
For the next few minutes they talked so fast telling me everything they knew about falcons, I could hardly follow them.
Looking at my album with many photographs that I didn’t take, the five-year-old Willem said, “ Don’t you have one in a stoop? That’s a dive you know, like this.” He jumped up and held his arms back along his sides with his head down and said, “Like this!”
I replied, “Keep looking through the album, you’ll see one.”
The older sister, Hazel, six years old said “Like this!”
Willem said, “No! Faster!”
They were so cute and animated. They knew more than most adults that passed by here. They left after I gave them both photos of the falcon, Willem’s in a stoop like he wanted. Needless to say they were thrilled.
Two days later they returned with a gift I will treasure, their drawings of the falcons which I entered into the photo album where they will remain.
Happy trails, Bob
P.S. This is education; this is what we do. ~Heather

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Back in the saddle again…

Back in the saddle again...
Photo by Cleve Nash

8:19 AM, 4 January 2013
First observation of copulation this year.
This is the start of her twelfth season. More to come.

Happy trails, Bob

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Rare find…

Rare find...

After thousands of birders, twitchers and shutterbugs from a dozen states have worn out the streets of a little roadside hamlet called Santa Claus Lane, well, he’s not so rare any more. The bird I’m speaking of, a juvenile Gray Hawk (Asturina nitida), put this little burg on the map. Cleve Nash, our contributing photographer extraordinaire had filmed this hawk several times in the last few weeks, but like a true naturalist couldn’t get a shot without a man-made structure in the photo which he detests vehemently. The shot you see here was taken after he flew from a chain-linked post to a rock behind a 6 foot chain-linked fence. Hand-held he focused though one of the small squares in the fence and bingo! This is the first recorded sighting of a gray hawk in California. They are normally in Mexico, sometimes frequent in southwest Texas and New Mexico areas.
Happy trails, Bob

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“Doris” landing…

Photo by Steve Medway
We would like to share with you a photograph from a visitor to “the Rock” who was birding around the beautiful Central Coast and happened upon “Doris,” the migrating female peregrine falcon, home unknown. She winters here from October to March in a cypress tree behind Back Bay Inn at Baywood Park, California. This has been her fourth year to winter here. She is called “Doris” because she frequently perches in a eucalyptus tree near the corner of Doris and Mitchell Streets.
Thanks, Steve.
~Heather

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Rolling stock revival…

Rolling stock revival...

Photo by Cleve Nash

For some time now my friend and associate, Cleve Nash, and I have been making small snide remarks, not in public of course about the south side tiercel and how much of a wuss he has been over the last couple of years, aka “Caspar Milquetoast.” Compared to the north side tiercel who is fierce and formidable and will attack almost anything, either by himself or with his mate. He is absolutely fearless. For the most part, these falcon pairs stay on their respective sides of the rock. However, in the past, I have seen the north side male for one reason or another make a high speed “hero run” across the south face of Morro Rock to attract the south side tiercel into giving chase. He might make a weak effort to engage with a lot of squealing, then break off and hide in the nest site, still making a lot of noise, trying to get the female to take up the chase, which she will sometimes do.
The south side pair of falcons has been spending a lot of time around the face of Morro Rock where they are not visible to us part of the time. Since my last posting, titled “Touch and go…” dated December 5, 2012, there has been a drastic change in behavior of the south side tiercel. As of yet, we have not seen another attempt at copulation, but it does not mean they have not been fooling around where we can’t see them. I think it to be the latter.
Eddie Murphy said “That stuff will make you crazy!”
For the last few days, Mr. Milquetoast thinks he is Rambo chasing Red-tail Hawks and making a grab at them instead of breaking off and going to hide some place.
Cleve was shooting this sequence with his 500mm Canon and said “ Bob, it’s the female.” And I said “It’s the tiercel, he’s small.” Cleve had been looking through the eye piece and didn’t get the same perspective. He said to me “It couldn’t be the tiercel, he is too chicken s!#!%* to do that” Then he brought up the photo on the display of the camera and enlarged it and said “You’re right, Bob. It is the male!”
The coup de grâce came high over the rock. My eye caught a glimpse of two falcons at high speed going over the top and down the ocean front face of the rock where I lost sight for a second, then coming straight at me at very high speed were two small male falcons about 30 feet off the deck. Passing in front of you at that speed will get your heart started, but as the lead falcon banked around the north side, the other that had given chase banked to the right in a victory roll and returned to the “diving board” nest site.
Happy trails, Bob
Tuesday, December 25, 2012

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