Thursday, February 21, 2008

Annapolis Has A Housing Boom (at least for TWO FALCONS)

The Severn River PEREGRINE FALCON pair have a new, rather luxurious box to call home tonight. Thanks to Craig Koppie of the US Fish & WIldlife Service, Allison Buckalew of the Severn River Keeper, Tim Fletcher, Steve Sparks, Paul Marley and all of the great folks at the MD State Highway Administration (SHA), our local PEREGRINES will not have to brave the harsh elements under the bridge any longer.Especially tonight, as local forecasters warn of ample amounts of winter precipitation, the falcons will have a safe spot where they may weather the coming snowstorm. Yes, to say it was cold under the bridge this afternoon would be a huge understatement. Windy? Eh, You bet. 'Chilling to the bone' just about describes our installation project this afternoon. Was it worth the numb extremities, time and effort? Without a doubt!Allison and I met at Tim and a few others (who's names are forthcoming) at the SHA offices in order to carpool over to the bridge. Once we arrived, we met up with Craig, off-loaded the supplies for the falcon's new home. Craig spent the last few weeks building, painting and drilling the bottom, top and sides. We hauled all of that, plus many of the extras that are needed for building a scrape (nest box). Bundled up, or so we thought, we headed for the catwalk under the freshly-painted underbelly of the US Route 50 Severn River Bridge.They call this bridge's latest shade 'Williamsburg Blue'. I think the falcons will enjoy the new look. What's more, this next box (possibly the best box ever designed, built and assembled by Craig) will prove to be a most inviting dwelling for our two falcons to raise their chicks. Facing the Southeast, in order to get the most warmth from the morning sun, we filled the box with buckets and bags loose stone and gravel. The female (MADRIGAL?) will scrape around in the next box and find the best possible spot to lay her clutch of eggs. While she renovates the home, the male (MAESTRO?) will be her delivery boy, bringing her meal after meal in the coming weeks.Thats Craig there on the left. Allison and Tim are, of course, working hard on the nest box as well.Everyone involved got to pour some of the fine gravel into the bottom of the scrape. My 'section' was the back left corner. With any luck, that corner is where she will chose to lay her clutch. Oh, and my money is on the female laying THREE eggs. Craig, for the record, predicts FOUR. I will certainly keep you posted on just how many eggs she lays once spring has arrived and she's completed her reproductive tasks.As l mentioned earlier, the male will be devoting his time and energy to hunting and delivering meal after meal for his female companion. Craig informed us that the female will spend her days gorging on these fresh birds (almost to the point of a lethargic food-induced coma-like state) in preparation for the chicks. She and her chicks will need the extra fat provided by those many, many meals Dad will be in charge of delivering.Unfortunately while we were there this afternoon, the falcons were no where to be found. I thoroughly scanned the horizon, examining every bare tree top and open perch where one of the two PEREGRINES might be watching us. No luck. Some of the workers mentioned that they had seen one of the falcons earlier in the morning perched on a nearby pier. They informed me that long before you see the falcons approach, you HEAR them! For fun, one of the workers has imitated the call of a NORTHERN BOBWHITE. This unmistakable whistle impression successfully managed to get both falcons very interested. Why the falcons would believe for even a moment that a Bobwhite would be hanging out with them under their bridge, well... I just can't say.After the box was assembled and fastened to the bridge, gravel was carefully poured into the scrape. Finally, the roof portion was attached to the walls and anchored to the bridge. As an added treat, Craig left the PEREGRINES a fresh meal of COMMON GRACKLE (found nearby, just moments before our work began) placed on the platform at the entrance of their new home.And to think, all I got from my realtor when I bought my home was a gardening book and a bottle of Pinot Noir that my wife Emery drank with her girlfriends while I was out at a GIG!I'll keep you updated throughout the spring and summer with any falcon-related news. I will be watching the pair regularly from Uncle Frank's beach on the Arnold side, as well as from this little speck of shoreline behind my friends Brian and Sarah's home here on the Annapolis side.This has been a very exciting day for BOTH our resident PEREGRINE FALCONS and for all those involved with the installation. SPECIAL THANKS to Craig, Tim, Steve, Allison, the USFWS, MD SHA and everyone of those incredibly durable bridge workers, the housing market in Annapolis is booming again. I just hope these birds can afford the property taxes. ;^)

Good nesting,

Dan

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