Mountain Project Map - Harpers Ferry

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Falcon Nesting Efforts & Rock Climbing Activity

[Follow up by Mid-Atlantic Climbers (MAC) - revision on 10/19/16]

[UPDATED 8:00 AM 9/23/16]

A post by "Bridget T" appeared on Mountain Project ( . The comment
"Due to climbing activity last year at Maryland Heights Peregrine Falcons' nesting was unsuccessful. These falcons start preparing nesting sites in January, not March. Harpers Ferry National Park will temporary close specific routes in the upcoming nesting season in consideration of the peregrine falcons. Thank you for being considerate and sharing the Maryland Heights wall with these feathered friends!"
I contacted "Bridget T" and asked for clarification and verification of her authority on the matter. Usually, Harpers Ferry National Historic Park announcements come through the Current Conditions page ( but I was not seeing an announcement. Bridget T responded with the following information
Thank you for writing and requesting more clarification. I work with the Audubon Society and we work in conjunction with Harpers Ferry National Park. Currently, we are collaborating with the park to develop a management plan for the Peregrine Falcon nesting sites at Maryland Heights. Last year the park agreed to have temporary closures on some of the Maryland Heights climbing routes, but the decision and implementation was too late. The Audubon Society members and staff have been observing and recording the falcons nesting on this rock face. The past two years have been the first time these falcons have returned to Maryland Heights in over 12 years. We know the closure was too late because we recorded observations of them in the area, constructing their nest starting in January. We are hoping for successful breeding this year and closing some climbing routes starting in January would facilitate that. I will share any information as we work with the park and they make updates.
That being said, as a former climber I can appreciate how fun Maryland Heights would be to ascend. It's awesome that there is climbing there, and I'm confident that hikers and climbers once better informed are happy to give the falcons some space. Let me know if you have any questions.
Please check the Harpers Ferry National Historic Park current conditions page for alerts on upcoming closures to cliffs. At this time, nothing official from the park service has been announced on the current conditions page.

I'm not certain from her reply that Bridget T is an employee of the Audubon Society because she says "works with" the Audubon Society. I think it's likely she is a volunteer with good intentions. I had asked her to explain how the conclusion that climbing led to the unsuccessful nesting was reached so that we climbers better understand the adjustments being made? She did not address the question directly in her response but I'm guessing the current closures are evidence that a connection has already been established between the falcons nesting success and climbers traveling near the nesting terrain.

It is unfortunate the falcons were not successful in nesting, regardless of why. The park service has been working for a number of years toward establishing a falcon population on the cliff. I know there are a ton of pigeons on the train tunnel wall and their excrement coats the walls and the ground. It seems like a healthy peregrine falcon population could help with population control, but I'm not a biologist. Anyway, please educate your fellow climbers about the issue and respect the closures when they are announced by the National Park Service.

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