The Peregrines of Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area (YHONA) have been attracting people from many places along the Oregon coast. From tourists to expert birders and wildlife photographers, these charismatic animals always have something exciting to share with us.
In the past I have written multiple entries about the presence of the Peregrine Falcons in this park. When I first arrived to this location in Newport, Oregon, there were two falcons defending the cliffs behind the interpretive center as their territory. However, that original pair is no longer around. Both birds disappeared a few weeks after their four eyeasses (baby falcons) started growing their primary feathers. Interestingly, a new male Peregrine Falcon fostered the young birds until they fledged by feeding them and defending the territory from intruders. Unfortunately not all four juveniles made it; one of them was found dead possibly of starvation and the other one was taken into a rehabilitation facility in Eugene, Oregon after being found injured in a bush under their eyrie (place where raptors lay their eggs).
The two remaining falcons have aroused an unprecedented interest in the local population to the point that they have been the subject of an “unofficial” citizen science* project. Every morning half a dozen, sometimes more, bird enthusiasts show up by the entrance of the park eager to start monitoring and taking pictures of the falcons. All the information we share with visitors of the park about the overall well-being and day to day activities of these birds comes from this group of dedicated people.
Not only have these birds been the medium that provides a hobby for wildlife enthusiasts, they have also brought together different groups of people; even those who had little experience with bird watching. I am impressed by how effectively the people monitoring the falcons have been communicating and how large their network is. As a representative of Environment for the Americas in Newport, members of the public now recognize me as one of “the bird people,” and I receive e-mails from them on a regular basis inquiring about how well the peregrines have been doing.
As a way to illustrate how this “Yaquina Head Peregrine Falcon Network” functions, I have the following example. Four days ago I took a picture of a juvenile falcon roosting in an area close to the historical lighthouse of YHONA. I noticed this bird looked different and seemed younger than our resident peregrines. I decided to send the image to one of the local ornithologists to confirm if in fact this is a new bird. After confirmation from the local expert, we were able to conclude that this is a male and that this is the first time its presence has been documented in this area.
It has not been a week since I took that picture and now 100% of the birders in this area are aware of the presence of this new juvenile. Also, a good portion of the local people are also on the lookout for this individual and are constantly communicating their sightings and sharing their images in an attempt to find out where this bird came from and if it will be able to establish itself successfully.
*Citizen science is scientific research conducted by the general public.