You can add Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to the list of units in the National Park System where a temporary closure is in place to give nesting raptors some privacy.
Water Gap Superintendent John Donahue has announced an immediate closure on a segment of the cliffs at Mount Minsi on the southwest side of the NRA. The closure, which might last until early August, is to protect a pair of breeding peregrine falcons on the cliff face. The species is a Pennsylvania designated endangered species. The action is being taken in close consultation with the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
The closure will encompass a section of the cliffs from the Point of Gap to Arrow Island Overlooks on Route 611 south of the Borough of Delaware Water Gap. The entire cliff face, from base to summit, will be closed to climbers on the cliff face and to others on the talus slope or trail at the top of the cliff.
Pennsylvania’s peregrine falcon population has been slowly increasing since the early 1990s. The increase is a direct result of reintroduction efforts. There are only about a dozen nesting pairs statewide.
Prior to last year, all nests in the state were on buildings and bridges in urban settings. An attempt to nest last year on Mt. Minsi was one of only two in the state that took place in natural habitat. Although the young and inexperienced Mt. Minsi pair was not successful last year, they remained in the territory all winter. The cliffs were known historical nesting areas dating back to the 1940s and 1950s, but no known nests have occurred since then.
Peregrines once nested at 44 sites in at least 21 counties throughout Pennsylvania, according to Water Gap officials. By 1961, there were no longer any nesting sites; the falcons were extirpated by egg collecting, shooting, and pesticides – particularly DDT.
Those interested in spotting the falcons can best do so from Arrow Island Overlook on Route 611. For current information on the status of the closure, please check the park’s web site at http://www.nps.gov/dewa. For more information on Pennsylvania’s peregrines, go to http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/PGC/falcon/index.htm.