Falcons feast on ill bats

A year ago, scientists learned that a large bat hibernaculum exists somewhere near Chapel Pond. They inferred as much when dying bats were discovered flying around Route 73 last March, long before bats usually emerge from hibernation.

A peregrine falcon chick. Photo from Wikipedia.
A peregrine falcon chick. Photo from Wikipedia.

Peregrine falcons that nest near Chapel Pond also discovered the bats. They returned from their winter habitat early this year, in mid-February, and a state biologist thinks they did so to feed on the sick bats. The bats suffer from white-nose syndrome, which has devastated bat populations through the Northeast.

“We observed the falcons foraging on bats both last year and this year,” said Joe Racette, a senior biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “They’ve been coming back a little bit earlier every year, but I think they learned last year that there was an early food source.”

Racette said DEC has not been able to ascertain the exact location of the hibernaculum, but he noted that a rock climber has seen bats in a crack on the Spider’s Web, a cliff on the north side of the highway.

Meanwhile, DEC plans to close, starting Monday, more than two hundred rock-climbing routes on three cliffs to protect falcon nesting sites. Some or all of the routes should be reopened later in the spring or summer once scientists learn where the falcons are actually nesting.

“We close the routes early on to allow the falcons to choose nest sites without being affected by human activity,” Racette said.

All the climbing routes on Moss Cliff in Wilmington Notch and on Lower Washbowl near Chapel Pond will be closed until further notice. In addition, DEC will close all but twenty-four of the 167 routes on Poke-o-Moonshine’s Main Face.

DEC will post updates on the closures on its website.

Following is a list of the routes on Poke-o’s Main Face that will remain open:

1.         Opposition

2.         Goat’s Foot on Rock

3.         High and Dry

4.         Bushmaster

5.         Big Buddha

6.         Bushido

7.         Bodacious

8.         Pearly Gates

9.         Kaibob

10.       Battle Creek

11.       Static Cling

12.       Certified Raw

13.       Air Male

14.       Son of a Mother

15.       Phase III

16.       Bastard

17.       Ladder

18.       Puppies on Edge

19.       Hang ’Em High

20        Group Therapy

21.       Adonis

22.       Pandemonium

23.       Discord

24.       A Womb with a View

About Phil Brown

Phil Brown edited the Adirondack Explorer from 1999 until his retirement in 2018. He continues to explore the park and to write for the publication and website.

Reader Interactions


  1. Alan Gregory says

    Until four or five years ago, it was unheard of in Pennsylvania for peregrines to again be nesting in natural cliff-side spots. Until then, their nests in this state were limited to places like the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning building and various bridges. New York is lucky to have these natural nest sites. Very lucky. And it speaks well of the New York conservation movement.


  1. […] week, I posted a list of rock-climbing routes that are closed to protect the postential nesting sites of peregrine falcons. This morning, the […]

  2. […] has 167 routes. Only twenty-four of those are open. You can find a list of the open routes in an earlier post. Rock climbing, […]

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