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Posts Tagged ‘Bayside State Prison’

Photos from the Field: Successful Year for Bayside State Prison Falcons

Thursday, June 11th, 2015
Endangered Falcons are Doing Well this Year!

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

So far this has been a good year for peregrine falcons. Almost all known nest sites have produced young, even the natural nests on the New Jersey Palisades, which are prone to failure from strong winds and driving rain associated with Nor’easters in early spring. One successful site is at Bayside State Prison. The nest there is on top of a 120′ water tower. The pair of falcons nests in a nestbox that was installed several years ago after a old hacking tower was decommissioned on the coastal saltmarshes along the Delaware Bay. For the past two years the site has been active and productive. This year two young eyases were produced (one was produced in 2014). Last week we joined Kathy Clark and John Heilferty with the NJ Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered Species Program to band the two young falcons.

We climbed the 120′ tower to access the nest and band the young. As we climbed the tower the adult female was calm but as we got to the half way point she became aggressive towards us to defend her nest and young. We were wary of her the whole time and spent as little time as possible on the tower while banding the young to minimize the stress to her from constantly flying and dive bombing us, which she did. We were lucky to have a steel railing to protect us (and helmets), as she came very close to us. At times she would perch behind me or John on the railing. Once we were done banding we climbed down and she returned to her nest to find that her young were not harmed.

Banding is a critical tool for avian biologists to learn a lot about birds. For New Jersey falcons we tag them with a black USGS federal band and a bi-color / alpha-numeric band, which allows us to be able to identify each individual bird. It also provides more valuable information including nest success, age, site fidelity, and the turnover rate in the population. At all nest sites in New Jersey, after we have successfully identified the breeding pair, we continually monitor each nest or eyrie until the young are old enough to band (approximately 3-4 weeks old). In 2014 there were 29 active nests in New Jersey (up from 26 in 2013). The core of the population continues to nest on towers and buildings throughout the state.


Ben W. and John H. climbing the 120′ tower. Photo By Kathy Clark/ENSP


Ben prepares to band a nestling that John holds. Photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

Dive bombed!

Dive bombed! Yes, the female came very close to us! Photo by Kathy Clark/ENSP

Two 3.5 week old young. One male; one female. Photo by Ben Wurst

Two 3.5 week old young. One male; one female. Photo by Ben Wurst

John Heilferty holds a 3.5 week old peregrine falcon as it was banded for future tracking.

John Heilferty, ENSP Biologist holds a 3.5 week old peregrine falcon as it was banded for future tracking.

Ben Wurst climbs down the 150' water tower. Photo by John Heilferty/ENSP.

Ben Wurst climbs down the 120′ water tower. Photo by John Heilferty/ENSP.

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Photo from the field

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011
Installing a nestbox for peregrine falcons on a water tower

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ben Wurst and Alf Breed installed this peregrine nestbox on a 120 foot water tower at Bayside State Prison near Delmont, NJ. © Kathy Clark, ENSP

The installation of a custom made nestbox on a water tower is no easy task. Just climbing this tower is a scary feat. First off the tower is over 70 years old and has little safety features on it.  You rely on your own climbing gear and strength to safely climb this tower. After several delays, we successfully got the nestbox up on the water tower where we hope to get peregrines from another nest site to nest.

This site was chosen because it is suitable habitat for peregrines to nest and there are adequate prey resources in the area (pigeons, starlings, and doves). Peregrine nest sites were once along the D. Bayshore in this area, but a recent study conducted in coastal Virginia found that peregrines there were negatively influencing the behavior of migratory shorebirds. This spring the decision was made to remove a nestbox that was located along the Bay to help protect species like the endangered red knot while they feed on horseshoe crab eggs.

I constructed the nestbox from salvaged wood from the Forest Resource Education Center’s sawmill. It’s a mixture of white cedar, western red cedar, and scrap plywood (from construction of bat houses). Reusing salvaged wood is something I am really passionate about. I make all sorts of things from it including picture frames that I sell, furniture, and osprey platforms.