It’s Springtime in Morro Bay

Katherine and I recently spent a couple of nights camping in Morro Bay State Park. Katherine had been to Morro Bay the previous week and was excited to share some of what she’d seen with me, most notably, the Peregrine Falcon nest on Morro Rock.

Morro Rock is a 572′ high rock (aka “plug”) created by hardened lava. It is an ecological preserve as well as a Peregrine Falcon preserve with two pair making nests high near the top of the rock.

When Katherine visited Morro Rock, she met Bob Isenberg. He has been observing peregrines along the central coast since 1969. Currently, he spends about four hours a day at Morro Rock, observing the peregrines and also sharing his information (along with views of the falcons through his spotting scope) with visitors to the rock. He has a website for his 501(c)3 Educational Nonprofit Pacific Coast Peregrine Watch whose mission is to “educate through observation.”

From left to right, Gordon, Jerry, Bob and Katherine. Friends Gordon and Jerry are also observers who share scopes and knowledge.

Katherine and I spent several hours with Bob and his friends. Bob pointed out the hole (“see the surfboard coming out of it?”) near the top of the rock where the peregrines had their nest. By his calculation from when he first noticed the parents bring food into the nest, he guessed the babies had been born six days before (see Bob’s April 22, 2022 blog post). He also pointed to a small hole in the rock near the nest cavity. “That’s their stash hole.” The peregrines stashed extra food there for later retrieval.

During our time of observation, we saw the peregrine male perched in a couple of his favorite locations. We also saw him drive off gulls and other large birds who strayed too near the nest site. Finally, toward the end of our time, we saw a parent bring in food for the babies.

Peregrine Falcon lands with food for the babies near the “surfboard” that juts out of the nest cavity.
Peregrine Falcon landing on a perch

In addition to the Peregrine Falcon attraction, in the waters around Morro Rock, we observed otters, seals, loons and grebes.

Eared Grebe
Common Loon
Juvenile Common Loon (I think. The non-breeding adult looks similar, but it IS springtime!)

During our trip, Katherine found a quiet little spot tucked away between two houses where we were able to drink our coffee as we watched a Kingfisher and friend.

Belted Kingfisher on dock in Morro Bay in Los Osos
Cormorant drops in on unfazed Belted Kingfisher. They hung out together for several minutes before the kingfisher flew off.
Cliff Swallows nesting at Spooner’s Cove in Montaña de Oro State Park
A pair of Pigeon Guillemots along the bluff trail at Montaña de Oro State Park
On the left is a juvenile Pigeon Guillemot along the bluff trail at Montaña de Oro State Park
Western Gulls caught during an intimate moment along the bluff trail at Montaña de Oro State Park

While we were observing the peregrines, Gordon mentioned some palm trees where Great Horned Owls could be found. Happily, these palms trees were near a local pizzeria so we combined dinner with owl spotting.

Great Horned Owl parents perched in a palm tree near the babies.
Two juvenile Great Horned Owls in a palm tree. (The second is tucked behind the first on the left side.)

All it takes is walking around with a camera and binoculars for people to share with you the location of birds. Katherine and I were returning from a morning walk near the campsite when a Camp Host showed us where to find Great Horned Owls — in camp! We would never have known they were so close if not for that helpful host!

Adult Great Horned Owl perches near its babies.
Great Horned Owlets. One is peeking over the head of another.

Katherine and I had a great visit to Morro Bay. Special thanks to Bob Isenberg, Gordon and Jerry for sharing their Peregrine Falcon knowledge. An important piece of information was that we need to return in about two weeks when Bob expects the young peregrines will be visible as they come to the edge of the nest site to defecate. Katherine and I are already making plans to return. You know I love a good bird pooping shot!

Oh, and I didn’t mention much about the second peregrine nest. It is on the other side of the rock. Bob and company believe that pair is about a week ahead of the one we observed as far as breeding. When those young start learning to fly, Bob will be there with a scope and a screen to allow visitors to view the show!

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