Getting set to leave the nest: Falcons banded at two U.P bridges

Fast facts:

- A pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, where the birds have been returning for years, raising one chick.
- In honor of the 350th anniversary of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., the hatchling was named after Susan Johnston (Ozhaguscodaywayquay in Ojibwe), a prominent Sault resident in the early 1800s.
- Another pair of the endangered birds has successfully nested on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge again this year.

July 2, 2018 – It’s been a productive summer for Upper Peninsula bridges and their resident raptors, with peregrine falcons at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge successfully raising a chick and the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock seeing three hatchlings this spring.

Caption info: Members of a Michigan DNR team put identifying bands on this peregrine falcon chick that successfully hatched at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge this year. (IBA photo)

Caption info: Members of a Michigan DNR team put identifying bands on this peregrine falcon chick that successfully hatched at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge this year. (IBA photo)

On the eastern end of the U.P., Karl Hansen, bridge engineer for the International Bridge Administration (IBA), reported that a pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested atop the bridge between the U.S. and Canada this spring, hatching two chicks – one of which died after hatching.

Nest boxes for the peregrines have been installed since 2010 on the International Bridge’s U.S. and Canadian arches. Last year, the same pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the International Bridge, hatching four chicks. The site has hatched 24 falcon chicks since 2010, when the nest box was installed and IBA staff started counting the birds, Hansen said.

A video of falcon banding operations at the International Bridge is online at https://www.youtube.com/user/saultbridge

Caption info: An adult peregrine falcon swoops under the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge recently. (IBA photo)

Caption info: An adult peregrine falcon swoops under the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge recently. (IBA photo)

The IBA has a new nest camera, the “FalCam,” which has proven very popular. Since the live video stream, viewable at www.saultbridge.com/falcam, went online, the IBA has seen website usage increase by 46 percent. The camera came online this spring just in time for the seasonal return of the endangered raptors.

At the other end of the U.P., on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) installed two nest boxes in 2012 – one each on the north and south bridge towers. A pair of falcons discovered the nesting site the next spring and has now raised a total of 15 chicks there. A webcam, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, has been installed in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Society to allow people to watch nesting activity there.

Caption info: Michigan DNR wildlife technician Ryan McGillviray holds a falcon chick during banding operations at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 20. A pair of falcons nesting on the bridge between Houghton and Hancock raised three hatchlings this spring. (MDNR photo)

Caption info: Michigan DNR wildlife technician Ryan McGillviray holds a falcon chick during banding operations at the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 20. A pair of falcons nesting on the bridge between Houghton and Hancock raised three hatchlings this spring. (MDNR photo)

The chicks at the Lift Bridge were banded by a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) team on June 20, while the International Bridge birds were banded by a team on June 26. Color-coded bands attached to the legs of young birds allow scientists to track the movements, reproductive behavior and population growth of the falcons.

In addition to their leg bands, the peregrine chicks received names. At the International Bridge, the bridge staff collaborated with the Sault Ste. Marie Michigan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau to name their bird in conjunction with the city’s 350th anniversary this summer. The chick was named Susan, after Susan Johnston (Ozhaguscodaywayquay in Ojibwe), the wife of a fur trader and a prominent Sault resident in the early 1800s. Around 1820, she helped dissuade Ojibwe leaders from attacking a treaty delegation led by Gov. Lewis Cass.

Caption info: Falcons are seen in their nesting box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge  on June 29 in this webcam image. (MDOT photo)

Caption info: Falcons are seen in their nesting box on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge on June 29 in this webcam image. (MDOT photo)

At the Lift Bridge, DNR and bridge staff named the males Hawkeye and Boden, while the female was dubbed Harmony. The new peregrines at both bridges should be ready to leave the nest in another few weeks.

Michigan lost its peregrine falcons in the 1960s and 1970s due to the use of DDT and other environmental contaminants. Since conservation efforts started in the mid-1980s, the number of peregrine nests has slowly increased. Now there are about 40 falcon pairs actively trying to nest statewide, with one to two new pairs discovered most years.

The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world.

High-speed hunters capable of flying at 200 mph, the peregrines may help keep populations of nuisance pigeons under control. While researchers have found pigeons make up a relatively small portion of the falcon diet, the dangerous predators may play a role in frightening them away from bridges. Keeping pigeons away is seen as potentially saving MDOT and the IBA maintenance money down the line, as pigeon droppings can damage paint on metal bridge surfaces.

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Advisory: International Bridge traffic impacts from annual bridge walk Saturday

June 21, 2018 — The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic during the 32nd Annual Bridge Walk and Bicycle Parade on Saturday, June 23.

The bridge will close to vehicle traffic at 8:15 a.m. and will reopen at approximately 10:30 a.m. after walkers have been cleared by customs. (more…)

Advisory: International Bridge closed to vehicle traffic for annual bridge walk June 23

June 15, 2018 — The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic during the 32nd Annual Bridge Walk and Bicycle Parade on Saturday, June 23.

The bridge will close to vehicle traffic at 8:15 a.m. and will reopen at approximately 10:30 a.m. after walkers have been cleared by customs. (more…)

Update: International Bridge falcons hatch chicks

Fast facts:
- A pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge this spring.
- The International Bridge Administration (IBA) webcam showed a pair of chicks hatched at the nest site on May 31.
- The IBA “FalCam” can be accessed at http://www.saultbridge.com/falcam.

falcon-hatch-small_original

A pair of peregrine falcons recently hatched two chicks in the nest box at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge. The image was captured on the new nest camera, now streaming live online. (IBA photo)

June 4, 2018 – Peregrine falcons have successfully hatched two eggs at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge this year. The International Bridge Administration (IBA) has a new nest camera, the “FalCam,” which caught chicks hatching on the morning of May 31.

Archived FalCam video of the chicks hatching is available at http://www.youtube.com/saultbridge.

Since the live FalCam video stream, viewable at http://www.saultbridge.com/falcam, went online, the IBA has seen website usage increase by 46 percent. (more…)

International Bridge plans summer projects

Fast facts:
- The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge has several repair and painting projects scheduled for this summer.
- A bridge abutment repair project will use an innovative epoxy injection technique for greater efficiency and fewer traffic impacts.
- The International Bridge Administration (IBA) will also replace sliding bearings, apply epoxy bridge deck coating and paint several bridge components.

To address ongoing maintenance needs at the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge, the International Bridge Administration (IBA) has scheduled several repair and painting projects this summer.

Annual bridge inspections in recent years have noted sinkholes and the movement and leakage of sand around and through both the Canadian and U.S. bridge abutments. At present, this condition is not severe.

“After 56 years of aging, loss of sand through the abutment embankment and retaining walls is not out of the ordinary,” said International Bridge Engineer Karl Hansen. (more…)