Falcons Soaring Again At Thee Arch Bay

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A falcon flies at Three Arch Bay in South Laguna. Photo courtesy of Nancee Wells

A pair of peregrine falcon chicks have fledged in Three Arch Bay for the second time in 50 years, signaling the return of an apex predator to South Laguna.

Nancee Wells, a wildlife photographer and 30-year resident of Three Arch Bay, has been keeping an eye on the falcon family since they nested in March. Last year was historic because it was the first time birds of prey nested in the bay in a half-century, Wells said.

“This pair nesting here shows the environment provides food (which is small birds), perfect weather and shelter for these peregrine falcons,” Wells wrote in an email. “We have an abundance of wildlife on land and ocean and the animals seem to find their space to raise young.”

According to the National Wildlife Federation, peregrine falcons were at risk of becoming extinct in the United States and Canada for much of the 20th century. They were dying off and breeding pairs were unsuccessful, the NWF’s website says, because of humans’ use of DDT and other pesticides on farmland.

The female falcon currently nesting in Three Arch Bay is a different bird than the one that arrived last year. Based on a photograph of the identification band clasped around one the female’s talons, Wells learned a biologist with the Institute for Wildlife Studies banded the falcon after she hatched on Santa Rosa Island in 2017.

The male falcon nesting Three Arch Bay is the same bird that nested there last year. The fate of his former partner is unknown, Wells said.

Wells is a 15-year supporter and volunteer for the Arcata-based nonprofit, which also started a program to reintroduce bald eagles to the Channel Islands in 1980. Along with bald eagles, the proliferation of peregrine falcons is a great indicator of how the environment ’s health, she said.

“It is always exciting to know when a bird has survived to breeding age,” Peter Sharpe, Institute for Wildlife Studies project leader, wrote in an email. “We know the banded peregrines move between the Channel Islands to breed, but this is only the second or third time one of our banded birds has been found breeding on the mainland.”

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