Conserve Wildlife Blog

Posts Tagged ‘peregrine project’

Peregrine Falcon Bandings in Jersey City and Union County: The Importance of Banding Chicks

Tuesday, June 4th, 2019

Story by Alison Levine

Two sets of peregrine falcon chicks were recently banded high atop buildings in Elizabeth, Union County, and Jersey City. Biologists from Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) checked the health and measurements of the falcons, while also placing both United States Geological Service bird bands and state auxiliary bands so the birds can be identified in the future.

NJTV and TAPintoUnion captured the banding in Union County, while News 12 New Jersey and CBS-2 covered the Jersey City banding.

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TapINTO.net: Online Cameras Peer into Nests of ‘Rock Star’ New Jersey Predators

Monday, March 18th, 2019

Story by: TapINTO.net

Top: Duke Farms Eagle protects two eggs that are expected to hatch soon.
Photo credit Conserve Wildlife Foundation.
Bottom: Peregrine Falcons in Union County exhibit mating behavior.

Photo credit Union County.

A pair of American Eagles tend to their nest atop an 80-foot Sycamore tree at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, days away from the hatching of two eggs, while the courtship season has begun for a female peregrine falcon nesting on the roof of the historic 17-story Union County Courthouse in downtown Elizabeth.

The predators have achieved “rock star” status in classrooms and homes across the state and the country thanks to video cameras that have been installed on trees and within the nests of the birds by wildlife biologists, with live feeds available online.

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Donations needed for Falcon Project!

Monday, May 5th, 2014
New cart needed to carry remote, motion activated camera to nests

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Each spring we work with NJ Fish & Wildlife Biologists to deploy a remote, motion activated camera at coastal peregrine falcon nests. The camera is set at the entrance to nestboxes or Dog Igloos to capture video of the adults as they enter and exit the nestbox when they are incubating eggs. As the pair exchanges incubation duties they go in and out, past the small camera. Most adults where leg bands (that they were given before fledging): one USGS band (silver or black:NJ, and one auxiliary color band with an alpha/numeric code). The data that’s collected helps biologist to keep track of the population and also allows us to find out the age of adults, their origin, nest site fidelity, and turnover rates.

To carry this wonderful camera to nest sites we use a small cart (made by Wheeleez, Inc.) transport it over the saltmarsh environment. Why is the Wheeleez cart important? Well, the cart has huge tires with low ground pressure. This helps us to leave a small footprint on our coastal saltmarshes. It glides easily over spartina covered marshes and fits perfectly over extension ladders that we use to cross small ditches on our way out to falcons nests that are on old hacking towers. There are around 10 towers where we deploy this camera and the cart is crucial to this project!

The current cart is over 10 years old and is falling apart. It’s wheels fall off and now it’s being held together with cable ties… We could carry it by hand, but there’s a heavy battery inside the Pelican Case that houses the camera system. We also carry a 16 or 20′ ladder to access nests, which are on 30-40′ towers. Carrying both by oneself would be extremely difficult, especially considering we sometimes walk long distances to a nest (and often cross many ditches). We’re asking for your support to help us purchase a new cart. We need to raise $300 within the next 14-21 days.

 

Photo(s) From the Field

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011
Bird’s eye view from a peregrine falcon nest site in Atlantic City

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

View south from the 23rd floor at the Hilton in Atlantic City, New Jersey. © Ben Wurst

Since 1985, one boardwalk casino has been home to a pair of peregrine falcons. On the 23rd floor of the Hilton (originally named as the Golden Nugget, then Bally’s Grand, The Grand) in Atlantic City a pair of peregrines have nested since 1988. Since then only two females have ever occupied the territory there. The first female nested there until 2002. In October of that year she was found injured after it was believed that she had struck an object. She was transported to The Raptor Trust for treatment, but unfortunately died later that night. She was the oldest nesting peregrine in New Jersey at the time (she was born in 1985 at a nest site in Sedge Island WMA) and was a NJ native falcon. She raised a total of 25 young during the 15 years that she nested there. She was known for her tenacious attitude and brave assaults on biologists and photographers by dive-bombing them “fighter jet style” to protect her young.

Here is an excerpt from the article “Storied A.C. Peregrine Dies: State’s oldest nesting falcon was N.J. native” in our old Conserve Wildlife newsletter from 2002:

“She’d been around nearly as long as I’ve been a biologist,” says Clark. “I felt a kinship from our many years at her nest, banding her young.”

Last June, as Clark was returning the bird’s two chicks to the ledge after she had banded them inside the penthouse suite, the biologist noticed the fierce female accidentally glance one of the building’s structural columns. But Clark will remember more all the times the bird was at her fighterpilot best, strafing Clark, her assistants and the news photographers who bravely clambered out onto the narrow ledge to record what had become a much publicized, annual banding ritual. In fact, in 1997 within a span of several minutes the bird was able to strike the heads of both an assistant biologist and a photographer. That’s why Clark, since then, had been banding the chicks inside.

Ironically, it took her death to solve the final mystery of her existence. In 1994, thanks to a remote-controlled camera, Clark was able to read all but the last digit on her leg band. The numbers confirmed her 1985 hatch date, but without that missing digit she could have been fledged anywhere from Maine to Virginia.

When Clark recovered the fatally injured bird, she recorded the entire banding number, and quickly learned the female had been hatched atop a nest tower erected in Barnegat Bay’s Sedge Islands Wildlife Management Area, just 25 miles north of Atlantic City. One of the first offspring of restored, wild-nesting peregrines in New Jersey, she had been a lifelong resident of the Garden State.” written by Bruce Beans.


Measuring the length of the ledge where deterrent will be installed.

Today, the only other female peregrine to nest on the ledge of the penthouse floor will be 13 years old this summer. She originated from a nest site in coastal Virginia in 1998. In early 2009 we placed a deterrent (wood and pigeon spikes) along a portion of the ledge to deter the pair from nesting. The preferred nest site is a nest tray where the pair can be more closely monitored by casino staff and butlers (Mel and Pete) on the penthouse floor and it also has more protection from harsh weather conditions. The deterrent worked quite well last year, but it wasn’t quite large enough. The female proceeded to nest directly next to our deterrents (see photo below). She was allowed to nest there, but after her young were banded, they were placed in the nest tray on the west side of the building.

Yesterday Kathy Clark, zoologist with the Endangered and Nongame Species Program,  and myself visited the site to measure the ledge where additional deterrent will be placed next week. The nesting pair was present and aggressive as usual. The female dove at us both as we were out on the ledge. The spirit of the old “storied” peregrine has certainly been passed on to this bird. The new deterrents will be installed next week. Peregrines begin nesting in March.

Learn More:
Additional photos from the site visit and from previous years at the Hilton

Photo(s) from the field

Friday, December 10th, 2010
Protecting peregrine falcon nest sites

by Ben Wurst, Habitat Program Manager

Ice covers a sheltered creek along the D. Bay. © Ben Wurst

While cold temperatures may have many people enjoying some time getting office work done, I enjoy working outside despite temperatures in the 30s. Yesterday, with help from Bill Pitts, a wildlife technician with NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program and Alf Breed, a seasonal technician with Conserve Wildlife Foundation we set out on the Delaware Bay to install a set of new predator guards on a peregrine falcon nesting tower near Heislerville. The new predator guards require little maintenance and more importantly help protect their nestlings from being predated by ground predators, like raccoons.

No doubt it was cold and windy. The small creek where we launched our boat already had ice on it! An uncommon sight in early December. This was a clear indication that winter is here to stay, but that it didn’t dampen our mood. So we launched boat and set out to the nest site. After a short boat ride we arrived at the site. One adult peregrine (a female) was perched on the tower. In New Jersey, nesting pairs are territorial throughout the year. She called to defend her nest site and flew off and watched us from a nearby perch. We unloaded gear and started removing the old predator guards.

Alf Breed attaches a predator guard to a pole on a peregrine tower. © Ben Wurst

In 2009, I began to install these new inverted cone predator type guards on peregrine nesting towers. The guards were custom fabricated by Babbitt Manufacturing, Inc. in Vineland. The new cones replace antiquated metal sleeve type predator guards which required annual maintenance during the non-breeding season. We first installed a prototype on a nest tower located inside Forsythe NWR in Oceanville. The new cone passed the test by withstanding 70 mph wind gusts during the winter of 2009. A complete set (of four cones) was then installed there and at another nest site on the saltmarsh in Manahawkin.

The finished product. © Ben Wurst

There are nine towers where peregrines nest along the coast of New Jersey. After the peregrine population was decimated by DDT in the 1960s, efforts were made to help re-establish the population.  It began in the 1970s after the federal ban of DDT in 1972. The first tower was installed in 1975 inside Sedge Island Wildlife Management Area. The Peregrine Fund and the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife began to “hack” peregrine falcons at this site to help re-establish breeding pairs to New Jersey and the Mid-Atlantic region. In the following years the program was expanded, and in 1980 a pair of wild peregrines nested on a tower. Since then, the population has slowly rebounded.  Today, peregrines nest on a variety of structures in New Jersey including buildings, bridges, natural cliff sites, and these old “hacking” towers. In 2009, a total of 14 pairs nested in New Jersey.