July 2, 2000

2000 Summer Bulletin


Immature female Sharp-shinned Hawk
Immature female Sharp-shinned Hawk

Last fall, 25 FRG volunteers operated a new hawk banding station from 28 August to 16 October at Cooper Mountain, above the shores of Lake Chelan. During this effort, we banded 220 birds of prey, primarily Sharp-shinned Hawks (139), Cooper's Hawks (42) and, unexpectedly, quite a few Northern Goshawks (14). This total set a new fall banding record for Washington. The study was part of an on-going joint venture with the US Forest Service (project coordinator) and Hawkwatch International (migration counters).

Due to the success of the study, we are continuing and expanding our banding program at Chelan Ridge this year. The project starts on Friday, 1 September 2000, and will continue through October until the snow drives us off the mountain. The project is open to the public and we invite all interested FRG members to join us there. It is a beautiful mountain site (5,200') with sweeping views and lots of fresh air. It is also the only reliable place to see Broad-winged Hawks in Washington.
To get to the ridge, drive to the town of Chelan and continue north on alternate route 97. Go about 3 miles or so to Apple Acres Road and take a left (DeLorme Atlas page 84, top left). Drive almost 5 miles and turn left on Antoine Creek Road. Continue up this route. It will eventually turn into a dirt FS road (8140) that climbs up for about a half-hour until it reaches the top of Chelan Ridge. It finally ends at a "T". Turn right here on FS road 8020 and drive about a mile to a parking area with two green San-i-kans on your right. By the way, do not turn left and drive up a little spur to the top of Cooper Mountain. Although it is a beautiful view, you want to stay on FS road 8020. From the parking area, walk to the other side of the road and look for a well-marked trail with abundant flagging that continues up the hill to the observation site. It is a little over a half-mile. Dress warmly, bring water and food and camp there overnight if you like. We generally have an evening fire every night to catch up on the day.

For more information, call or e-mail Bud.

Immature Merlin


For those of you who would like a more in-depth experience of the fall hawk migration, we will be offering introductory classes in both Seattle and Mt. Vernon beginning in August. There will be 4 class sessions in each city, two covering the history and scope of hawk migration and two on banding methods and handling techniques. Graduates of this class may join the FRG banding team in the blind at Chelan Ridge for further hands-on training in the processing of migrant hawks.

Seattle - Tuesdays 8-29 August Center for Urban Horticulture 7 pm

Mt. Vernon - Thursdays 10-31 August Padilla Bay Interpretive Center 7 pm

Cost of the class is $125.00. To register, send your check to the FRG, Box 248, Bow, WA 98232. For more information, call or e-mail Bud. Space is limited so register early.

Two Chelan Ridge Trappers w/ Cooper's Hawk

Ed Deal & Brett McCallum at Chelan Ridge


We continue to study the little known race of Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus madens) in the Cape Verde Islands 400 miles off the West Coast of Africa. This year, a team of three people (Zach Smith, Kathy Gunther and Bud Anderson) visited the main island of Santiago from 8 March through 4 April. There were several "breakthroughs" in the islands this year.

First, we located two new eyries on Santiago. This brings the total number of known active peregrine sites in the islands to three. Both of these new pairs (as well as the historic site found by Anderson in 1997) were on remote, vertical, inaccessible cliffs. By finding them, we are starting to define what a Cape Verde peregrine nest site looks like. This process is extremely helpful and gives us a basic search image so we can find more sites in the future.

Second, we were able to capture and band an adult female, an extraordinary privilege for peregrine biologists. As far as we can tell, this was the first time that a live peregrine of this race had been captured alive. She was breathtakingly beautiful.

Third, we discovered that the Cape Verde peregrine is, in our opinion, indistinguishable from the closely related Barbary Falcon (Falco pelegrinoides) of Morocco and the Middle East. The plumage is the same, the tail length is comparable and the distinctive head color is identical. If the Barbary is a separate species, as many people think, then the Cape Verde peregrine more accurately falls within the Barbary group. More work remains to confirm this new view.

Finally, we confirmed two more breeding dates for this enigmatic race, bringing the total for the islands to 7. Prior to our trip, no one knew precisely when the birds laid eggs or even if there was a specific breeding season. This information will help us to find more sites in the future since we now know when birds are breeding.

We plan to return to the islands in the spring of 2001 to continue the survey. Our primary goals are to determine the size of the Cape Verde population and then document the distribution of the breeding pairs. This project was funded by donations from friends of the FRG as are all of our field studies.

Historic first photograph of Cape Verde
Peregrine / Barbary Falcon.


We have been studying the San Juan peregrines for 25 years, most intensively for the last 8. This season, the population experienced a record number of breeding failures. Ten (59%) of the 17 known pairs did not produce young, which is the highest rate of failure we have seen so far in our study area. In the past, we saw a maximum of three failures in a single year. We suspect that the majority of failures were caused by a two day period of intense rain in early April.

Seventeen eyasses fledged at the eight sites that did produce young, an average of 2.125 young per successful nest. Among these pairs, there were at least two re-nestings.

Thanks to an observation by Marty Daniels and Jack Bettesworth, we located another new pair this year (#17), although there is evidence that they had been there for several years prior and we had simply missed finding them.

We welcome Martin Muller, Ed Deal, Marty Daniels, Pat Little, Kathy Gunther and Mark Prostor to the FRG banding team. They have completed the FRG climbing course, been certified and most banded their first eyass this year. Congratulations.

Once again we would like to thank the friends of the San Juan project for funding this research.

Pat Little banding his first peregrine
~ San Juan Islands ~


Here are some gems of information that help us learn what happens to our local nesting peregrines. There were quite a few of them since last winter (4), which encourages us to keep on banding. We continue to have an extraordinarily high rate of returns on these birds, 19 reports so far from 99 eyasses (19%).

Another nestling male banded by Bud Anderson in the San Juans on 29 May 1999 was found dead near Duncan, Vancouver Island, on 11 February of this year. This is our first report of a San Juan nestling dispersing to the northwest.

Roger Orness and Jack Bettesworth observed a female nest mate of the previous bird (#5) at Emerald Downs near Auburn, on 29 December 1999. They read her VID band clearly.

Jack and Roger were on a roll and read another band, this time at the Kent Valley Ponds on 24 January 2000. This female was banded by Wendy Gibble in the San Juans as a nestling on 12 June 1999 (Wendy originally banded the mother of this bird too as a nestling in the San Juans on 4 June 1997).

On the last day of the millennium, a team of FRG banders caught a beautiful immature male peregrine on the Samish Flats at Field Road. Bud Anderson banded it as a nestling on 26 June 1999, once again in the San Juans. It was an appropriate and fun way to end the century.


For the first time in 6 years, Stewart and Bell succeeded in raising 4 young this year, three females and one male. Although Bell always lays 4 eggs, she has never fledged them all from the ledge until now. As I write this in mid-July, all of them are still doing fine. Two of the females were found on downtown Seattle streets but thanks to Eric Stauber of the WSU Veterinary Clinic and Kay Baxter of Sarvey Wildlife Care Center, both were returned to the air successfully.

Bell is now 6 years old and has produced a total of 20 eggs. We know that no more than four of her young may have survived prior to this year, so we are particularly gratified to see four more joining the population in 2000.

We thank Ruth Taylor and the Seattle Peregrine Team for doing such a great job monitoring the birds this year.

Bell in downtown Seattle


After many years of false starts, the Tacoma pair of peregrines finally succeeded in raising a family in 2000. The birds nested on the east counterweight of the 11th Street Bridge near the downtown area.

Despite supplying them with a custom-built, gravel floored, aesthetically and architecturally pleasing nest box, (in a gorgeous gray color) they laid their eggs on some dirt right out in the open with literally no cover whatsoever. Even so, all four of their eggs hatched and all four young fledged. Ironically, both pairs of city peregrines (Tacoma and Seattle) experienced far better productivity this year than the wild pairs in the San Juan Islands.

We banded the 4 eyasses on 6 June with the help and support of Dennis Ulmer and his crew from the State Department of Transportation. They have been incredibly cooperative during this project, particularly Kip Wylie, Mike Grillo and Jon Moergen.

Our happiness at seeing these birds finally succeed was dampened by the passing of our good friend Jim Lyles, who had been instrumental in monitoring these falcons over the years. Jim died suddenly of a heart attack in April. He had just established that the falcons had laid eggs but, sadly, was not able to see them hatch. We miss him a lot.

Greg and Tammy Pelletier are continuing the Tacoma peregrine web-site at the request of Jim's family. You can find it at http://www.tacomafalcons.org.


We have been counting the wintering raptor population on the Skagit Flats for eleven years. On 12 February, volunteer teams of hawkwatchers (a record 109 observers) counted all of the birds of prey on 27 routes from Chuckanut Drive to the Stillaguamish River and from Sedro Woolley to March Point in Skagit County. The survey lasts for 2 hours and covers approximately 160 square miles.

This year, we had the highest count ever. The teams observed 1,056 raptors including the following 13 species; Bald Eagles (475), Red-tailed Hawks (307), Northern Harriers (147), Rough-legged Hawks (57), American Kestrels (5), Merlins (10), Prairie Falcon (1), Peregrine Falcons (17), Gyrfalcons (2), Sharp-shinned Hawks (9), Cooper's Hawks (12), Barn Owls (2), Short-eared Owls (4), unidentified (8). Our previous high count was 887 in 1997.

The Skagit Flats are known for their high wintering population of hawks, eagles and falcons. As a result of our survey efforts, we determined that densities reach an average of 6.6 raptors per square mile. The importance of this region to wintering birds of prey is unmistakable and the Skagit Flats continue to be an unrecognized national treasure.


Many of you have already sent in your $25.00 annual dues for 2000. Thank you very much for your continued support. We appreciate it.

For the rest of you intrepid hawksters, send them in if you can as it does help out. If not, no worries. We'll keep you on the list anyway.

Good hawkwatching and we hope to see you at Chelan Ridge.

~~ Thank you for your support! ~~