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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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…)

Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge celebrates 100 millionth crossing milestone

Fast facts:

  • The International Bridge in Sault Ste. Marie celebrated its 100 millionth crossing this morning shortly after 9 a.m.
  • The bridge opened to traffic in 1962 and reached its 10 millionth crossing in 1975.
    As in 1975, the International Bridge Administration (IBA) recognized one bridge crosser from each direction and presented them with a selection of local gifts.
  • March 1, 2018 — The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge marked a major milestone today as the 100 millionth traveler crossed the span between Michigan and Ontario.

The International Bridge is the only vehicular crossing between Ontario and Michigan within a 300-mile distance. (more…)

Holiday Office Hours and Services

In preparation for the upcoming holiday season, please note the following holiday office hours and services for the International Bridge Administration.

Bridge Operational Services:

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, through the holidays.  Assistance is available for walk-in customers or via phone can be reached at either:

  • 906-635-5255 ext.0
  • 705-942-4345 ext.0
  • Prox Cards:
    • Debit account (Prox Cards), for new accounts only, will be available through the holiday week.

Bridge Administration Services:

Administration offices will be closed between December 22, 2017 and January 1, 2018.  Normal administration office hours and services resume January 2, 2018.

  • Prox Cards:
    • Requests for replacement cards or extra cards on existing accounts will be processed when normal office hours resume.

Please have a safe and enjoyable holiday week.

Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority elects new officers

Fast facts:

  • The Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board of directors named member Thomas Buckingham, Sr., as its chair and member Micheline Dubé vice chair for 2018.
  • The board consists of eight members, four Michigan members appointed by Gov. Snyder and four Canadian members.
  • The board heard reports on a number of successful International Bridge projects.

November 9, 2017 — At today’s Sault Ste. Marie Bridge Authority (SSMBA) board meeting, the bi-national body that supervises operations of the International Bridge elected officers for 2018.

Board member Thomas Buckingham, Sr., was elected as the 2018 chair of the SSMBA board of directors. Buckingham was appointed to the board in 2015 by Gov. Rick Snyder; he was the SSMBA vice chairman in 2017. Buckingham is from Newberry., where he is general manager and secretary for Forest Insurance Center Agency Inc., Mauck Insurance Agency Inc., and Loggers Insurance Agency II LLC. The SSMBA board consists of eight members, four Michigan members appointed by Gov. Snyder and four Canadian members appointed by the FBCL, located in Ottawa, Ontario.

Micheline Dubé of Ottawa was elected vice chair for 2018. The other Canadian representatives on the board are Natalie Kinloch, Anthony Pickett, and André Girard. The other U.S. representatives are Linda Hoath, Scott Shackleton and Nicholas White.

The SSMBA board also heard updates (more…)