Wednesday, May 13, 2015

PEREGRINE FALCON RECOVERY TAKES A BIG STEP

It’s a big year for peregrine falcons on the Mississippi River with additional nesting pairs being reported at Bellevue, Dubuque, Clinton, Muscatine and Keokuk. 
Having five additional pairs show up in one year hasn’t happened before. 
“Getting these birds on the river was really the key to bringing them back,” said Pat Schlarbaum, wildlife diversity technician with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. “Bob Anderson with the Raptor Resource Project and Lowell Washburn who was the chair of the Iowa Falconry Recovery Team complemented each other in releasing wild birds back in 2000 that started this successful reintroduction.”

The new falcon pairs have set up nests on the Dubuque courthouse, on a huge rock near Bellevue State Park, on a large building at ADM by the river in Clinton, in a smokestack box at the Muscatine Light and Power, and at the energy plant dam in Keokuk.

“The Clinton site is increasingly exciting as Clinton County is the southern extent of their historic nesting range,” said Schlarbaum. “With the inclusion of the new pair, Clinton has three nesting pairs.  Predictably there will be a lot of falcons flying over this stretch of the Mississippi River in early summer.”

Young falcons hone their flight skills engaging in mock combat flights that provide incredible visual, high speed chases and maneuvers.  And peregrines attract non-breeding peregrines, so it will be quite a show.

The Mississippi flyway has seen falcon nesting increase on the historic cliffs since 2000. Last year, 15 falcon pairs were successful at 13 sites that produced 34 young. It is Iowa’s falcons along the Mississippi that are driving the increase in numbers, said Schlarbaum. 

Established wild pairs on cliffs include Agee’s Bluff, north of Lansing; Lansing Power Plant cliff; Leo’s Bluff, south of Harper’s Ferry; Bungee Elevator at McGregor and at the quarry near Eagle Point Park in Dubuque.  

Established pairs at Louisa Generating Station and the Great River Bridge in Burlington are active this year as are the sites at the I-80 Bridge in Davenport and the Alliant Energy smokestack at Chillicothe.

In Des Moines, pairs will be hatching young on the east side of the state Capitol and downtown at the American Enterprise building. The Cedar Rapids pair on their US Bank building will begin hatching soon.

Iowa’s first nesting pairs in 1993 occurred at Des Moines and Cedar Rapids.  Iowa skies have included falcons with incremental growth in nesting numbers since those first attempts. 

Elsewhere, falcons are hatching at Mid-American Energy headquarters in Davenport.  Go tohttp://wqad.com/falcon-cam/ to watch the nest.