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Predatory birds nest for third year on Clackamas County-owned basalt cliff in the Damascus area.

PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Paul Losch (left), Jasper Losche (bottom) and Tom Saddoris (right) climb the crag at Madrone Wall Park in Clackamas County on Monday, July 20, following the park's reopening marked by the fledging of three peregrine falcons. Clackamas County announced last week that Madrone Wall Park is once again open to the public following the successful fledging of three peregrine falcons.

This marks the third year in a row that the predatory birds have returned to the cliff face located within the park to nest. Following confirmation of a falcon nest, each year the county has closed the park to the public to allow the birds to rear their young in this habitat without interference. PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Clackamas County interim Parks and Forests Manager Tom Riggs stands below the spot on the cliff face in Madrone Wall Park where a peregrine falcon nest was identified.

"Peregrine falcons are doing a lot better than they have in the past, and part of that is due to management plans put into place like this," said Tom Riggs, interim parks and forest manager for Clackamas County. "The needs that they have for the rock need to be compatible with our recreational uses, and during the time of year when human activity is most likely to scare them away is when we keep the park closed so they can do their thing." PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Paul Losch (right) chats with friend and fellow climber Tom Saddoris after descending a route on Madrone Wall.

Fledging is the stage in a bird's life between hatching and becoming fully capable of flight. It's the first time the falcons leave the nest, and they're unlikely to ever return. According to Keith Daellenbach of the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee, peregrine falcons were once endangered, but were delisted several years ago. They remain protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which prevents humans from disrupting the nesting of migratory birds like falcons.

Daellenbach said that while the closure of the park means climbers have to stay away from a beloved park feature that includes more than 100 climbing routes on a beautiful rock wall several hundred yards long, the local climbing community understands the need to give the nesting peregrine falcons space.

"This is something climbers are familiar with all over North America, especially here in the West," Daellenbach said. "Temporary closures of many sites take place all over the western U.S., like Smith Rock in central Oregon, Beacon Rock in the Columbia Gorge, Yosemite National Park in California." PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - On Monday, July 20, Clackamas County resident Tom Saddoris attemps a route on the crag located in Madrone Wall Park.

According to Daellenbach, three years ago the preservation committee worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Clackamas County parks to initiate a monitoring program to keep an eye on the falcons that were nesting at Madrone Wall. They pulled from sources such as Cornell University Center for Ornithology and others monitoring programs at sites like Beacon Rock to use the best available science in protecting these birds. While monitoring is taking place, only sanctioned monitoring activities take place in the park and all hiking and climbing is prohibited. PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Tom Saddoris makes his descent on the crag at Madrone Wall Park.

Although the falcon chicks won't return to the nest, Daellenbach said, they do remain in the area for some time until they've fully developed their ability to fly.

"This park is an absolutely amazing sort of treasure. It's just beautiful," Daellenbach said. "It's an all-natural cliff face where people can go rock climbing, hiking or just enjoy being outside. It's also easy to social distance while rock climbing if other people are also at the crag."

According to Riggs, the preservation committee and involvement of volunteers like Daellenbach have been instrumental in helping make Madrone Wall Park a beautiful asset to Clackamas County parks. PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - No peregrine falcons, adult or fledglings, could be sighted in the sky on Monday, July 20, but a pair of turkey vultures circled high above the cliff wall in the late afternoon.

"It's a really important partnership, and it helps us be able to manage the resource while they sort of manage the user side of things," Riggs said. PMG PHOTO: SAM STITES - Madrone Wall Park is several hundred yards long and features more than 100 routes for rock climbing. The park was officially opened in 2017 after the Madrone Wall Preservation Committee worked with Clackamas County to turn the park into a climbers' paradise.

Due to COVID-19 related staffing limitations, Madrone Wall Park summer hours have been reduced and will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Madrone Wall — located at 19485 S.E. Highway 224, Damascus — is one of the premier multiseason rock climbing sites in the metropolitan area. A $6 day-use parking fee or annual parking pass is required for use of the parking lot.


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