Nesting Raptors

Prescott Creeks ongoing restoration efforts in Watson Woods Riparian Preserve continue to see results in stream and wetland function, willow and cottonwood planting distribution and growth (“recruitment”), and habitat quality. With the support of thousands of volunteer hours and your membership contributions and donations, what was once the town dump and gravel pit is now a 126-acre oasis in the heart of our community.

Spring-Summer 2017 has been a landmark season in Watson Woods restoration results. Staff, volunteers, and partner organizations have been monitoring activity at no fewer than six raptor nest sites, representing four species of hawks and falcons, in Watson Woods and the surrounding area. While Common Black Hawks, a species of special concern dependent exclusively on riparian habitat, have been making a comeback in the region and nesting in Watson Woods the last few years, they have been joined this year by Cooper’s Hawks, Red-tailed Hawks, and American Kestrels. Such an abundance of raptor nesting activity is a good sign that restoration efforts are paying off in an increasingly healthy habitat array in the Preserve.

Red-tailed Hawks, although a common buteo (typical hawk) across much of North America, have been a welcome addition to our observed Watson Woods nesting activity. The maturing large hardwoods in the Preserve, adjacent to the open country Red-tailed Hawks use for hunting, make for an ideal nesting location. Prescott Creeks staff and volunteers from our partner organizations watched what appear to be, at last observations, two near-fledged young become increasingly active around the nest. While survival rates for fledged birds can often be low, we anticipate seeing them soar, hunting over the open areas surrounding Watson Woods, and returning next year to the nest site.

Perhaps the highlight of the season has been the remarkable success of our nest box projects, with American Kestrels occupying three boxes placed in the fall of 2016.  The project, in collaboration with Prescott Audubon Society and the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD), included placing nest boxes for Wood Duck and American Kestrel, a small falcon, in key wetland and riparian habitats in the Preserve and surrounding areas. Kestrels rely on nest cavities in older trees and nest boxes to raise their young. Three pairs found the new boxes to their liking and raised broods, giving Watson Woods hikers an excellent opportunity to watch, from a safe distance, the activity at the nest sites.

Among the AZGFD kestrel box sites across the state, Watson Woods stands out in its remarkable success in occupancy and fledgling activity. In June, under the careful supervision of AZGFD wildlife specialists, nestlings were examined and tagged with the help of some very attentive volunteers. The experience proved rewarding for all involved.

Look for adult and fledged young kestrels perched along utility lines in the open spaces bordering the Preserve. Their increased presence should be taken with pride for all involved in restoring and preserving our waterways and natural spaces in our community.

Prescott Creeks relies on the support of membership contributions and donations for our ongoing restoration, outreach, and monitoring efforts. By becoming a member or making a donation, you are showing your commitment to ensuring our green corridors and spaces remain a vital part of our community to be shared by all, including the wildlife returning and making these local wild places home.

We invite you to visit and become a member or make a donation today.

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