To our many readers out there, we would like to invite you to contribute photos and text of falcons that you watch wherever you may live. With your permission, we will post them to share with everyone. Please describe your photo, include photo credit, your name. We will be able to pick up your email address in your comment information and proceed from there keeping your email information private.

We would love to hear from you.

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Touch and go…

Touch and go...

Photo by Cleve Nash

I think I have mentioned several times before that the peregrines begin their mating in December. Well, this is December and “The dew is on the punkin’.” And early this morning the tiercel made his first attempt with her and without much success.
Rejected! Just look at the face she is showing him. I spent the rest of the day waiting for another interlude, but he didn’t return. Probably off sulking somewhere. Well, tomorrow is another day. I hope a lucky day for him.
Happy trails, Bob
P.S. Thanks to Cleve Nash for his early bird schedule.

Posted in breeding, courtship, falcon, Morro Rock, peregrines | 6 Comments

A seed planted…

A seed planted….

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A seed planted…

A seed planted...

Andrew
Photo by Heather O’Connor

A young “Bay Area” birder came by today, opened the back of the family van and pulled out a tripod and spotting scope. I barely recognized the hat he was wearing through all the buttons and bird patches, but the Peregrine Watch logo was still there. He was about eight or nine when I gave it to him and already a seasoned birder since kindergarten always with his field guide. He’s thirteen, still birding, but like any other youngster, other things come into their lives, sports, school, soon it will be girls.
I don’t know if the parents planted the seed or it just blew in on the wind, but they nurtured and cultivated it and did a wonderful job. I would like to think I might have watered it once.
Thank you, Andrew, for making my story feel good. And to Ronny, Ann and Amy Tey who let the seed mature.
Happy trails, Bob

Posted in education, peregrines, visitor | 1 Comment

Bob with the Tey Family

Bob with the Tey Family

Photo by Heather O’Connor

Posted in Bob Isenberg, education, peregrines, visitor | Leave a comment

A visitor writes about us…

Yesterday, we received an email from one of our many visitors to the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch at Morro Rock, Morro Bay, California, USA! We were so happy that he wrote about Bob Isenberg who has for years dedicated his life to observing peregrine falcons sharing his information with you. We especially thank Ken McAlpine for his fine article. He writes for the Southern and Central California’s community public television station based in Los Angeles, CA.

“Education through observation.”

My best, Heather
P.S. I cannot seem to connect the link so will copy the article until I figure it out. Thanks for your patience.

A Lesson from Morro Rock: We Are Not So Different | West is Eden | SoCal Focus | KCET 11/22/12 10:24 AM

A Lesson from Morro Rock: We Are Not So Different
by Ken McAlpine
on November 20, 2012 6:40 PM

Photo: Mike Baird
Falcao Peregrino.
Dai Bang.
Pilgrimstalk.
Wanderfalke.
Hyabusa.
Hmong-nong

That would be peregrine falcon should your Portuguese, Vietnamese, Swedish, German, Japanese, and Lao be a trifle rusty. If you actually are a linguist, please don’t take me to task. These are simply the phrases I copied from the notebook Bob Isenberg hands me, scrawled there by visitors from afar — men with turbans, women with veils, folks with skin of different pales — all of them come to see Morro Rock, and then are surprised by Isenberg sitting beside the monolithic volcanic plug in his chair.

By Isenberg’s count, as of this bright Thursday morning, the notebook contains the term for peregrine falcon in 71 languages.

“Pages and pages,” he says, leafing through the notebook. “Here’s one from the other day. Alap-alap kawah. Bahasa Indonesian.”

It’s just a fun thing, this United Nations guest book, though I do notice, oddly, that virtually every term rolls off the tongue as lightly as a peregrine falcon makes its looping rises into the air, which, in falconer’s terms (pretty much another foreign language) is called “ringing up.” You see, peregrine falcons nest here at Morro Rock, which is why folks from around the globe stop beside the laconic Isenberg, sitting in his chair, and, if they are lucky, peer through his tripod mounted spotting scope to view one of the animal kingdom’s most magnificent creatures.

“They are the fastest living thing,” says Isenberg, who takes justifiable pride in the peregrine. “They clocked one at 243 miles an hour. Electronically. But that may not be as fast as they can go.”

Should you travel to Morro Rock (and you should), you are apt to meet Isenberg. He’s been there, off and on, since 1969. He’s easy to find. In his words, “Look for the guy with the tripod.” Isenberg is an observer and a tabulator. By his reckoning, he has logged over 17,000 hours observing peregrine falcons at Morro Rock (and other locales along the Central Coast). Just writing that is enough to make my eyeballs bleed. Looking at the falcon derivations in the notebook doesn’t help any either. Mankind may be an amalgam of diverse cultures, but we share sloppy writing in common. Isenberg’s notebook could be filled with words for peregrine, but it might also be a collection of doctor’s prescriptions.

You’ll find Isenberg in the south parking lot at Morro Rock which, for the directionally impaired, is on the side of Morro Rock where the wind whops the least. Isenberg is a member of the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch which has their own natty website (http://pacificcoastperegrinewatch.org) and facebook page (www.facebook.com/PacificCoastPeregrineWatch) with lots of photos and stories about the impressive bird. Their motto is “Education through Observation,” a credo which shouldn’t apply to just falconers.

Fervently adopting this motto, Isenberg has garnered quite an education. He has watched peregrines fight. He has seen them hatch, fledge, hunt, and mate. These observations are not a result of luck. Isenberg has employed some serious boots to the ground.

“I’ve been here every day for the past four years,” he says. “Before that, I came as often as I could.”

When it comes to observation, Isenberg makes Thoreau look like Snooky with even more ADD.
Not that Isenberg will tell you this. He is far more interested in falcons.

You won’t always see peregrines at Morro Rock, but my good luck, on the day I visit a peregrine is perched high up on the stony south wall.

“Right there,” says Isenberg.

I peer at the rock face. In my defense Morro Rock is 573 feet high.

Ah, yes. I see it. Right there, on that ledge.

“That’s a bush. To the right.”

I scrunch up my face. I can feel Isenberg’s eyes on me. I know he is studying me, too.
I am getting ready to lie when Isenberg says, “Never mind. You’ll have better luck with the scope.”

I looked through the spotting scope, which Isenberg has trained so that the falcon stands smack dab in the crosshairs. The falcon looks right back at me.

I actually feel goose bumps rising. A single word comes to mind. Regal.

“He’s soaking wet,” says Isenberg, since he knows I can’t tell. “He just took a bath.”

I am no birder. I am interested in birds only when I am holding a donut in my hand or standing beneath a cloud of gulls, or both. I am transfixed by the falcon. I do not move.
Isenberg watches me.

When I finally pull away from the scope and look at him, he laughs softly. “They have that effect on people,” he says.

Isenberg is full of peregrine stories and he tells me a few. There are lots more stories on the Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch website and facebook page. Many of the Morro Rock falcons, past and present, have been given names: Millie, Rudy, and, my personal favorite, Surfer, so named for his pale bleached blond hairdo, and his propensity to not play well with others.

“He was very precocious and very much a loner,” Isenberg tells me. “He was part of a cast of three falcons and he was so much farther ahead of the others in every respect, really agile and incredibly coordinated. As they got older and ready to fledge, the other two would flap their wings to strengthen their muscles. Surfer just flew straight off the ledge and across the bay to the power plant and landed on the roof. We were astonished. First time out, they might fly fifty feet and crash in a bush.”

Isenberg pauses for a moment to savor this memory, in much the same way an oenophile thinks back on a particularly divine wine.
But even for a novitiate like me, there is something hypnotic and mesmerizing about the falcon simply at rest. It’s true, the bird I am watching hasn’t ruffled a feather, but it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s the stories Isenberg tells me as I peer through the spotting scope, eyes glued to the bird. Maybe it’s the way the peregrine stares back at me as if it rules the world. Maybe it’s the bird’s perfect form, compact, with nothing out of place, like a missile with feathers. It is poetry, with wings.

Other people are beginning to gather around the scope. I wish them away but to no avail. Soon they are scuffing the ground with their feet and making polite coughs.

Isenberg has stepped into an adjacent trailer. Finally the boldest of the interlopers speaks.

”I can’t see it,” he says deferentially. “It must have been really hard for you to spot it at first on all that rock.”

Clearly he has mistaken me for a falcon aficionado, possibly because I am still clutching the notebook in my hand, possibly because I am staring at the falcon as if I might take it home.

Rising reluctantly from the scope, I glance to the trailer to make sure Isenberg is still inside. “No,” I say. “I found him easily, just to the right of that bush.”

Isenberg comes out of the trailer. I realize I am still standing proprietarily beside the scope. There are even more people now, their faces, black, white, and brown, twitching with anxiety.

Isenberg nods to me.
“He’s a beautiful bird, isn’t he?” he says, smiling a smile I recognize from kindergarten. Give someone else a turn.

With regal munificence, I relinquish my place. I walk away, but I continued to observe. More people gather. I watch Isenberg point toward the sheer rock face and then gesture to the scope, his newest disciples bending to look. I see how each of them goes still, and how they remain stooped to the scope for far longer than Miss Manners would allow, and how, when they finally step away, they continue to stare up at the cliff as if the bush has just burst into flame. One man wears a long robe — Middle Eastern, perhaps, or African — and I wonder if Isenberg will notch a 72nd phrase. When the robed man spies the peregrine, he raises his hands over his head and they do a little jig in the air.

I walk to the other side of Morro Rock and sit on a bench and watch the sea. Along the vast sweep of bay, white breakers ran away into the rolling hill distance. The wind sings and across Morro Rock’s vertiginous face gulls ride the wind’s swift currents. There are places in this world that make you glad you’re alive, and California has its unfair share of them. How lucky we are to live here.

I think of the notebook and the scrawlings; from India, from Italy, from Kazakhstan, and Peru. I think of the robed man, hands dancing, the light in Isenberg’s eyes and my own goose bump rise.

We are not so different.

Posted in falcon, Morro Rock, peregrines, photography, visitor | Leave a comment

Things are not always what they seem to be…

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 the days get shorter. The tiercel is flying by her, just missing her by inches as she perches on a spire. However, not the high speed cliff-racing or the acrobatics. That is still about a month away when breeding begins.

I started to talk about the visitors and got caught up babbling about the birds.

First visitor: “ Hi, are you looking at the falcons?”

Bob: “Yes, I am. Would you care to look at them? The spotting scope is on the female.”

Visitor: “ No, there are lots of them around. I just saw one land on the Dockside Restaurant.”

Bob: “Great. You come back about midnight and he’ll still be there.”

Visitor walks away with his head down, sulking.

Second visitor two hours later: “I bet you’re looking for the falcons.”

Bob: “ Yes, I am.”

Second visitor: “Well, he’s not here. He’s on the roof of the fish place.”

Bob: “Did you hear him chupping?”

Second visitor: “Oh yeah, it was him.”

Bob: “Would you like to see a real live one?”

Second visitor: “You mean………….?”

Bob: “Yes!”

Happy trails, Bob

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Plastic “Pete, the Peregrine!”

Photo by Bob Isenberg

Posted in falcon, peregrines | 1 Comment

Alive and kicking…

Image

Photo by Heather O’Connor

The Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch is still alive and kicking, although we’ve had some slow days. So we took off on a one day road trip to check on some of the old peregrine nest sites around Monterey and San Luis Obispo Counties. We started off north on US 101 toward the Army Base at Fort Hunter Liggett just outside Bradley, CA. Going west past the old Mission San Antonio towards what is called “the Indians”… beautiful oak meadows and giant bedrock formations along the San Antonio River drainage. This is the headwaters of the river, oak trees full of acorns, but no dove or Band-tailed pigeons. However, we did see many birds, quail, Steller’s jays, songbirds, hawks, kites and a coyote.

Continuing on to the east slope of the Pacific Range, we kicked up a Prairie Falcon with prey. It flew along side us as we drove, then veered off. We are now headed up the range on Nacimiento-Ferguson Road. Nearing the top, we pulled off to look for Band-tails and their favorite food, the Madrone berries. No birds yet, but more berries than I have ever seen in many years. When we reached the top, we took the ridge road south. Within a quarter mile we saw a flock of ten, then another twenty five, then seventy five! In the next two miles we saw over 500 birds. I can’t wait ‘til December when they really come in. We are now driving down the west slope, with the Pacific Ocean in front of us, 3000 feet below. Now on Pacific Coast Highway 1 going south, we spot our first falcon, a juvenile at Willow Creek, then another at Villa Creek. Years ago, they nested under the highway bridge. I wonder if they still do. This adult female was perched on a rock pinnacle near the bridge over the creek to the ocean. In all we saw four falcons.

Just south of San Carpoforo, a large meadow on the northern edge of the Hearst Ranch, we saw 80 Tule elk, some bulls fighting while we and the cows watched. The grass lands along the Pacific Coast will make you dizzy with raptors, harriers, kites, kestrels, red tails, Ferruginous hawks. Ten hours,  214 miles and too many birds.

Happy trails, Bob

Posted in falcon, juvenile, migration, other birds, peregrines | 2 Comments

Elk at the north end of the Hearst Ranch…

Tule elk

Hearst Ranch, San Simeon, California Photo by Bob Isenberg

Correction: The elk at Hearst Ranch are Rocky Mountain Elk not Tule Elk as mentioned previously. Below is the information that I found at http://www.hearstcastle.org

“Dismantling of the Hearst Zoo”    The dismantling of the zoo began in 1937 after William Randolph Hearst experienced great financial difficulty and was forced to curtail his construction activities and cut other expenses at the ranch. Many animals were donated to public zoos or sold. Dispersal of the zoo animals extended over more than fifteen years and it was never entirely completed. Most of animals had been placed by 1953, two years after Mr. Hearst’s death, but many animals were permitted to range free on the ranch. In 1958 when the State was given Hearst Castle, there were Rocky Mountain elk, tahr goats, llamas, white fallow deer, zebras, Barbary sheep, and sambar deer still on the ranch. Today, few of these animals survive, but often zebra may be seen grazing in the pastures along Highway 1 near the town of San Simeon.”

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