Falco peregrinus


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Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 8, 2006 - 03:22am PT
Bachar: DDT was a threat to the peregrines (and other species), but is no longer.

John, that's not entirely true, non-urban shells are still thinner from residual / accumulated DDT in the food chain. And survival of fledged young from urban hack sites is not particularly encouraging except when they are moved out of the urban sites.

Residual DDT in the environment is problematic across the West and particularly so for SoCal populations (particularly Eagles) due to a singularly heinous event that still contaiminates the region's marine food chain:

In 1992 and 1993 surveys by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) found more than 100 metric tons of DDT (from the Montrose Corp. who systematically dumped it in LA sewers) in the sediments on the ocean bottom of the Palos Verdes Shelf. The highest concentrations of DDT were near the mouth of the White Point sewer outfall, at water depths from 40 to 80 meters deep. Subsequent surveys by Southern California Bight Pilot Project showed that elevated concentrations of DDT in bottom sediments extended from the Palos Verdes Shelf and into Santa Monica Bay.

But let's back up a minute, and be clear - thirty years ago the West coast Peregrine population was essentially wiped out - two known nesting pairs in CA - and in 1964 no Peregrines were known to exist East of the Mississippi. Out West that has recovered to somewhere between 250-300 viable pairs in CA along with some sustainable population of adults capable of acting as replacements in those pairing as necessary. Other Western populations are similarly recovered but still not what anyone would characterize as "normal" or "strong" (as opposed to say Osprey in the Columbia River Gorge that I've watched do a stellar recovery during my 20 years of windsurfing).

How exactly are climbers affecting these birds?

Despite all our anecdotal stories of birds "not minding" the presence of climbers and our activity can easily influence their choice of nest sites and clearly stresses nesting pairs and unfledged young birds.

Who gets to say who can or cannot climb in certain area and for what reason? If I can't climb in a certain area, I would like to know why.

Probably the thing to understand is that the discovery raptors populations were almost univerally decimated in the 50's-70's was coincident with the birth of the environmental movement in general. The "recovery" of the Peregrines (such as it is given it is still a fraction of their original population) is still highly emblematic of the overall environmental movement's sucesses. And further it has been the lifelong endeavor and life's work of thousands of people across the nation particularly in the West. The restoration of the Western Peregrine population is in no way fiat-accompli that say the Osprey has been. These people view their effort to restore the Peregrine to its natural range and each nesting pair no differently than we view individual routes and what has been accomplished climbing in the Valley over the same period. I personally will find it disheartening if these two amazing accompishments by folks with a lot in common can't find a way to co-exist.

As for who decides - in reality it's the people who have restored the Peregrines working through institutional proxies of wildlife and land managers. Be clear, though, if you choose to start/attempt to take actions that these folks deem a threat to the on-going Peregrine recovery and their life's work you will be getting a fight that in the scheme of things you may end up wishing you hadn't started. Is this really a fight you want to take up? I personally don't think you're going to get a lot of traction at the AF if it is, so I suspect you'll need some other vehicle to wage that war with. The AS (Audubon Society) may seem like a "quaint" organization of old birders, but in a head-to-head face off it's more like a darkening of the skies by a remarkable number of razor tooth pteradactyls. They have access to vast experience, wealth, lawyers, and government connections that make climbers look like we are still in the womb politically-speaking which in fact we are by any comparison.

If "their" reason for closure seems bogus, then I will decide for myself what I will do.

Well, if we all do that I can pretty much assure you the result will be viewed and played out like lots of mini-Delicate Arch dramas with the net affect of institutionally pissing off wildlife and land managers who are now also communicating with one another at digital speeds over the Internet.

These are public lands - they "belong" to everybody. If indeed my presence at a certain crag is harming the peregrines, then I will not go there.

I think that's probably a wise approach and the one I've adopted. Our climbers' association also cooperatively monitors the Peregrines and has worked hard to foster a new relationship with the various land and wildlife managers long enough now for there to be at least the possibility of ending closures early if the biology warrants it. I personally am finding a cooperative relationship way more rewarding and productive than the collective pirate ways I used to be a part of. I also think the wildlife and land managers I work with are top notch, professional, engaged and upfront, and straight with us. I can believe that may not a universal condition and that we are simply damn lucky to be working with folks who passionately pursue their own off-hours sports as much as we pursue ours.

That pirate approach never accomplished anything but to simply reinforce the sense among managers that these closures need to be broad, static, and inflexible policy statements rooted in advesarial relationships rather than the actual biology at each cliff every year. But you have to work hard for that to change because actively managing these closures requires a lot of extra commitment, resources, and effort on everyone's part. You have to rebuild soured relationships, re-earn trust, and put in the time and effort. It isn't easy, painless, or without requisite time, labor, and admin commitments. But without it, nothing will change. And further antagonizing wildlife and land managers doesn't seem too bright given they hold most of the cards and have myriad other ways at their disposal to make life miserable if sufficiently provoked.

So far I have not heard any facts that prove climbers are harming the birds.

Facts, hmmm, as in science facts? Not much other than elevated heart rates and abandoned nest sites, but the 'facts' associated with environmental stresses on raptors are hard won from thousands of man years of observation, monitoring, and surveying. It isn't a matter of experimental fact so much as experience just like most of our climbing "facts" are...

"Part of a raptor's defense is to just watch the person or predator that is in its territory. Humans, for example, can cause raptors to stress and elevate their heart rates just by the bird seeing them. In addition, raptors may leave a territory when disturbed by humans or domestic animals. Inexperienced raptors may take-off for another area and are not capable of competing for food in established territories by other raptors. Any interference while a raptor is nesting or looking for food for its young can have a long term affect on the bird's nesting habits. If a raptor is disturbed by humans, often it will permanently abandon its nesting site."

Anyway - that's my take on it all and over 32 years of climbing I've been on both sides of the equation. I've operated totally pirate and of late finally trying what I now consider a more intelligent approach. I believe it's working here, but again, rebuilding the relationships has not been easy or free.

As for any broad legal campaign - good luck with that but I fear you'll ultimately end up unhappy with both the process and the result...

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jun 8, 2006 - 11:25am PT
healyje- Thanks for actually answering the question 'How are we affecting the peregrines?' It is refreshing to see a thoughtful response here. I got the DDT quote from peregrinefund.org - which does not proffer much more info on this question. In fact I had a hard time finding this info anywhere on the internet. So again thanks for some knowledge on this - that's all I'm looking for. I realize 'hard science' in this case refers to experiential data and that's totally acceptable to me - no problem with that.

I do think we have to question these closures to satisfy ourselves they are necessary and helpful. Jody has a valid point here - give the Government an inch and they'll take a mile - if you don't keep questioning them we may find our rights being taken away from us for no valid reason. Mick Ryan also brought up that point (post now deleted).

I also asked these questions because of my experience last spring climbing past a peregrine nest many times - about three tmes a week for a couple months. There were no closure signs in the area. Admittedly, I did not realize that I was 'harming' the peregrines - I did my thing, they did their thing. I didn't think twice about it. I was respectful of their home (or so I thought) - and they (Mom) let me climb by (no attacks, no sqwaking). I now realize I may have been 'harming' them. The point being - I get around quite a bit on the rock and may encounter other nests on my vertical journeys and as I don't want to be a 'selfish hobbit' I would actually like to know how to proceed in these situations without 'harming' the birds or other creatures for that matter. After all, there was no 'closure' at that time and there may not be one for every nesting spot I may encounter.

I strongly believe in people's and creature's rights - I'm not at all propsing a 'pirate' approach to this issue. I have no problem 'working with' the Feds (if they're capable of working with anybody) or other groups to protect animal rights but after witnessing how they can and do snatch away rights despite our efforts to protect them, I am a bit wary - that's all. Witness 'airport security' for example - most people have been duped into believing they're safe when the fact is anybody can still easily board a plane with a couple of 10 inch Grivory knives in thier pockets. Partnering up with the Feds didn't stop that non-sense. Like I said - I'm just a bit wary.

Anyway, I'm still looking for more info on how and in what ways we affect the peregrines while pursuing our sport of climbing (basically a selfish activity anyway).

Healyje - thanks again for proffering some facts on the topic - a refreshing change from some of the ad hominem 'logic' presented here. peace, jb

Trad climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jun 8, 2006 - 12:11pm PT
Good Discussion!

Here is a link to the Access Funds site on raptors and climbing.
This answered alot of my intitial questions.


Heres the CURRENT list of Raptor Closures

After reading that, I feel the best thing we should do (solution) is to write letters to Access Fund, or possibly start an online petition addressed to them.


The Access Fund seems our best option to make sure climbers interests are fully recognized.

I think we can agree on a few things:

#1)As it stands now, there are only a handful of closures, this is not a problem! As many of you pointed out, there a tons of other places to go (valid Point!) What concerns me, is what is to come in the future. Lets remember, Raptors and particulary Peregrines nest in the same spot year after year, any new closure will certainly be a "normal" thing.
These birds are INCREASING in population (see AF websight)new nests will be found every year INCREASING closures. Like a few of us have said, we see these birds many places, many have not been documented and hence no closure at this time.

#2) We respect ALL wildlife and there right to occupy cliffs, we understand they are protected from harm. We have no intention on disturbing nests.

#3) Land managers should actively seek out climbers to perform scientific studies and assist with monitoring raptor behaivor.

#4) Climbers have learned through EXPERIENCE that climbers and raptors CAN occupy the same cliff without disturbing nests through ROUTE closures, Not entire area closures.


Jun 8, 2006 - 12:32pm PT
Yes, good discussion, I agree.

Vision man...ya gotta have vision...
Jun 8, 2006 - 12:49pm PT
"However, if you selfish Hobbits would get off of your ass and partner with the Feds, perhaps you could better define the closure areas."

Congratulations on success in this area. Partnering is not always an option with the Feds, however. They banned bolting of any kind in the Superstitions (wilderness area) in 1991 (this was the area that set off the wilderness bolting issues country-wide) and in spite of many tries over the years to even meet with the NF dudes to discuss the issue (even when specifically targeting the issue of safety and bolt replacement for 40-year-old bolts), we've had no luck...so far...

I'm just saying that a unilateral decision to work with the land managers doesn't always result in a positive result or experience.

Trad climber
Mammoth Lakes, CA
Jun 8, 2006 - 04:05pm PT
What's wrong with Bilbo's#4)? " Climbers have learned through EXPERIENCE that climbers and raptors CAN occupy the same cliff without disturbing nests through ROUTE closures, Not entire area closures. "

Do the 'Feds' object to this solution?
E.C. Joe

Jun 26, 2006 - 06:36pm PT
Below is a fwd of a message that I just rec'd about Chimney Rocks in Sequoia NM, CA.

Please take note that the adults would not feed during the climbers presence. Feeding must be a constant activity for these animals, espaecially since they need to feed their young. Climbers that violate closures for their own gain need to get off the selfish wagon and climb elsewhere when an area is posted as 'closed'. - ec

Hi all,
Kathy & Brian monitored chimney rock last Saturday and found the peregrines have a nest with babies on the Monk. I believe this is the first time since the 1970s that they've got chicks. Kathy estimates the chicks are about 2 weeks old.

Unfortunately when they arrived, people were climbing on Chimney spire, even though everything is posted as closed. The upper gate keeps getting opened, so we're working on it. The climbers were on the rock for about an hour, and during that time the birds would not feed.

Marianne M. Emmendorfer, Planner/Interpreter
Hume Lake RD, Sequoia NF/Giant Sequoia NM
559-338-2251 ext.313


Area Closed
to Protect Nesting Peregrine Falcons

Peregrine falcons historically nested in the Chimney Rock area, and since banning DDT in the 1970s they are back in the area trying to nest again. Peregrines can be very sensitive to humans around their nest area and may abandon the nest if disturbed.

Your support in protecting these magnificent birds is appreciated. Some of approaches and climbing routes are too near the Peregrine’s favorite nest sites. When upset, the birds make a defensive kak-kak-kak cry and may dive bomb intruders. You can avoid disturbing the Peregrines by staying away from the routes shown on the attached map and listed in the closure order, generally in effect from April to August each year. Since peregrines can nest in different areas each year the climbing routes closed may change. Please refer to the map for current information.

If the Peregrines make their defensive cry, it is considered harassment of the birds and you can be cited by a law enforcement officer under the Forest Order (CFR 261.53b) or the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
If the falcons act defensively in areas not shown on the map as closed, please contact Park or Forest Service personnel at the telephone numbers listed below so the restrictions can be changed if necessary. You can help peregrines return to this area by following the closure order restrictions, and by helping monitor the birds.

For the most up to date information on this closure, please contact the Park at www.nps.gov/seki or 559-565-3341 or the Forest at www.r5.fs.fed.us/sequoia

For more information on other climbing routes in this area and their restrictions log on to:

To help monitor peregrine falcons log on to the Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group site:

Thank you for your support


Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 26, 2006 - 09:31pm PT
After several years of incremental trust building between climbers and the Washington State Parks (WSP), Beacon Rock State Park (BRSP), and the Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), this year we had a 6/19 opening instead of the scheduled 7/15 date. This only came about through a lot of cooperative effort on everyone's part - particularly on the part of individuals from the three agencies above. They each went way out of their way to make an early open possible when they didn't otherwise have to. I know many of you aren't working in such a constrained context (i.e. feds vs. state) and so it can be a more difficult proposition, but here is a link to our little saga:


[P.S. The climbers breaking the closure in Sequoia NM are really doing everyone a real disservice. Word of such breaches gets around to all the other federal raptor managers across the West these days as these folks are a small, tight-knit community of folks. With all of them on the Internet now you should just consider breaches of [federal] closures to have a cummulative affect rather than simply isolated and quickly forgotten incidents. No good will ever come of such breaches.]

Sport climber
Buzzard Point, TN
Jun 27, 2006 - 11:16am PT
More like:

You people still have not learned that nothing is ever "temporary" with the government. And, nothing ever remains "small". That is why the argument about "what's the big deal if they go to war" for a few months is ridiculously stupid. Let that happen and in your lifetime they will be pushing for war for years at a time. They have already restricted things way too much and once their foot is in the door it won't be long until it is wide open for military budgets you take for granted today.

[url=""]It was a great scam.

—Stephen Norris, co-founder
Carlyle Group, May 20, 2002[/url]

Peregrines seem to do pretty well on the chossy hinterlands of Malpais...

Mick Ryan

Trad climber
Saratoga Springs, NY
Jun 27, 2006 - 11:38am PT
It would be interesting to know how many nesting Peregrines there are on the Eastern Sierra in total. I'm sure the majority of the PF's will be on cliffs not frequented by our species, homo climber. And the cliffs not frequented by our species homo climber are in the majority.


the Hooterville World-Guardian
Jun 27, 2006 - 12:08pm PT
i see peregrines, as well as prairie falcons and the merlin (i'm a chicken hawk), i say, every, well i say, every single day.
and although there are many cliff environments very local, they seem to have adopted and adapted to the ranch environment pretty well.

no need for a lot of 'championing' around here, but then again this area is a little bit bigger than your average 'thesis' size data set.

Trad climber
Portland, Oregon
Jun 27, 2006 - 02:21pm PT
A new survey is currently underway but there are likely somewhere between 300-500 nesting pairs on the West coast from CA to WA. Not a large number by any means and still a long way from being restored to anything like their previous range and numbers. They were removed by the feds because the recovery to-date has rescued them from extinction - but don't confuse that with "doing fine" which they still have a distance to go to achieve, something like in 2015 or 2020 at the current rate...
Doug Hemken

Madison, WI
Jun 27, 2006 - 04:23pm PT
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