THE PEREGRINE: WHAT CLIMBERS SHOULD KNOW
By Steve Longenecker
“Would the person who found the
peregrine falcon carcass at the base of Table Rock please contact
Chris Kelly, NCWRC, at (828) 230-1320. I would like to know what
color the leg band was in order to figure out where this bird
birds!" We've all said this, or something like it, when
arriving at Looking
Glass , Linville
only to find that the very place we wanted to climb was closed
because "somebody" had decided that was best for the falcons.
I'm a climber. I'm also fascinated by the peregrine falcons and am the person
who posts the "Closure" signs at the North Side of Looking Glass. Perhaps
I can answer some of the questions you have about the annual Peregrine Closure
situation. You can also E-mail me at
"firstname.lastname@example.org" and I'll communicate with
Q: "WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT THIS PARTICULAR BIRD?"
As with most things, it depends upon your perspective. For some,
seeing and hearing a peregrine is one of the most thrilling
experiences ever. For others, peregrines represent a ruined
weekend of climbing. The peregrine falcon, until 1999, was on
the list of Federally Endangered Species. Though it was de-listed
then, it remains on North Carolina's list of endangered species.
The U.S. Forest Service's biologists, along with the NC Wildlife
Resources Commission's biologists, believe that the peregrine's
recovery is not yet strong enough to warrant de-listing in North
Enlarge photo of closure
Q: "AM I GOING TO BE IN BIG TROUBLE IF THEY CATCH ME IN THERE CLIMBING?"
A: YES!. The law enforcement
folks who work for the U.S. Forest Service and the NC Wildlife
Resources Commission will cause problems for any climbers caught
within the "Closure" area. When the news is out that the posted
boundaries are being enforced, it will act as a strong deterrent
to others who might be tempted to enter the posted area.
Q: "HOW DOES MY CLIMBING BOTHER THE PEREGRINES?"
A: Peregrines, if they were humans, would probably be taking Ritalin or Adderal!
They are "ADHD" birds, very excitable and impulsive. Yes, I realize that
I'm being anthropomorphic here, but many climbers can appreciate the comparison.
Not only are these very nervous birds, their instincts cause them to be both
territorial and protective of their progeny. Typically, their eggs are laid
on a flat surface, on the ledge below the overhang that has been established
as their "eyrie" (nesting place).
Seeing and/or hearing climbers can mean death for the eggs/immature peregrines.
There is no nest involved, only a flat surface with a shallow depression
that the birds have made ("scrape"). Peregrines have very long tails and
wingtips. An excited parent bird can easily dislodge an egg accidentally.
Another time, after the eggs have hatched, is also critical. A young peregrine
can be frightened to a point where it might panic and attempt to escape from
the eyrie. Unable to fly, it would die from the fall or from being unable
to kill its own food/defend itself on the ground.
Q: "WHY DO THE BOUNDARIES AT WHITESIDES AND LINVILLE CHANGE FROM YEAR
A: The nesting pair of peregrines at Looking Glass have returned
to the same eyrie each spring since 1989; other pairs have established
alternate sites over the years. While the biologists want to
make rock climbing as easy for us as possible, they also must
find, then protect, nesting locations that have changed from
a previous year.
The large "Notices", found at either trailheads or on bulletin boards, show
detailed maps and other information that can keep from making your hike an
exercise in frustration.
Q: "WILL THESE 'CLOSURES' REMAIN IN EFFECT FOREVER?"
A: No! Once the biologists have determined (1) that the peregrine
has been effectively reestablished in the North Carolina mountains
or (2) that climbing activity is not causing any problems for
the birds, then expect the closures to be stopped.
Until that time, please help inform other climbers about what is being said
here and continue enjoying both the climbs and the magnificent peregrine!
Falling Creek Camp
Fund Closure Information
The Peregrine Fund
Submitted by Steve Longenecker
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