ACADIA NATIONAL PARK, Maine — A few small, fluffy heads have been seen in the past two weeks popping up out of peregrine falcon nesting sites in the park, giving officials hope that a few more of the endangered birds will be flying around Acadia’s cliffs in the coming months.
According to park biologist Bruce Connery, an adult pair nesting near Precipice Trail on Champlain Mountain has hatched at least one chick, and another pair nesting on Beech Cliffs has hatched two. There could be more chicks at each site that have yet to be spotted, he said Thursday.
“I’ve seen a white fuzzy body, but that’s it,” Connery said of the site at Precipice Trail. “We definitely have seen two chick heads [at Beech Cliffs].”
Two other known falcon nesting sites in Acadia have not been productive this year, Connery said. There have been no nesting attempts this spring at Jordan Cliffs, he said, which has prompted park officials to open trails near this site sooner than expected. Trails near traditional nesting territory on Valley Cove, on the eastern side of Saint Saveur Mountain, remain closed even though there don’t seem to be any nesting adults at that site, he said.
“Valley Cove appears to have failed,” Connery said. “We’re not sure what happened there.”
Trails near the Precipice and Beech Cliffs sites are expected to remain closed for another eight weeks, he said.
The biologist said seven falcon chicks hatched and then grew old enough to fledge, or fly away, in the park in 2008. The year before that, however, no falcons were hatched in the park because of harsh storms in early April.
The adult pairs have nested at new sites on each cliff, Connery said. The Precipice nest is several dozen feet above a ledge where falcons nested in 2008, while at Beech Cliffs the birds chose a perch different from the one that naturalists think got waterlogged last year.
Connery said vegetation near the prior Precipice site may have prompted the falcons to nest at a more exposed site higher up the slope. The vegetation could have interfered with falcon chicks as they tried to learn how to fly, he said, but the adults might have been attracted by the higher site’s better drainage or sun exposure.
“They switched gears on us at the last minute and nested 30 or 40 feet higher,” he said.
Connery said that to help keep track of the birds, park biologists hope to band the falcon chicks at each site in the next week or so. The young chicks likely will first take flight on their own in mid-June.
Connery said the park has staff on site every day at the Precipice Trail parking lot, where the Park Loop Road passes east of Champlain Mountain. From 9 a.m. to noon, a ranger is on hand to let visitors peer at the Precipice nesting site through telescopes and to show them replicas of the eggs that are laid by adult falcon females, he said.