Bridge-nesting peregrine falcon fledglings take a tumble but get helping hands toward survival

USFWS biologist Craig Koppie returns two rescued peregrine falcons to their nest atop the St. Georges BridgeST. GEORGES (June 18, 2013) – A winning combination of citizen awareness, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement, Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research, and the US Fish & Wildlife Service collaborated recently to rescue and subsequently return a pair of juvenile peregrine falcons to their nesting location on the St. Georges Bridge over the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal after the birds had “crash-landed” on the bridge’s roadway while attempting their first flight.

Known as the world’s fastest bird, peregrine falcons have nested in Delaware since the late 1980s when they were carefully reintroduced to the eastern United States as the population rebounded from a federally endangered species listing. Due to the pesticide DDT, the entire eastern population had completely disappeared and recovery was uncertain. Delaware was not an obvious place for bringing them back, as the landscape lacks any naturally-occurring cliffs, the peregrines’ preferred habitat. However, the state boasts several large and high bridges that the falcons find as a surrogate for cliffs. The first nesting pair was on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and over the past three decades, falcons have also taken up residence on the Summit, St. Georges, and Reedy Point Bridges over the C&D Canal. 

Three years ago, the Division of Fish & Wildlife began monitoring a new pair of peregrines atop the St. Georges Bridge. The steel truss bridge serves well as nesting location, or aerie, but it also can be a perilous place for juvenile falcons as they prepare to make their first flights. With their nest scrape high in the arches of the bridge, young birds have fallen into the C&D Canal or landed on the deck of the bridge, often resulting in mortality.The two rescued falcons are safely returned to the catwalk during a successful release atop the St. Georges Bridge.

Twice this month, two fledglings leaving the St. Georges Bridge nest for the first time might have met with such misfortune. Instead, quick thinking by citizens who saw and reported the falcons on the deck and roadbed of the bridge – amidst passing traffic – triggered a quick response from Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement agents who rescued the falcons and transported them to the nationally-renowned Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark. 

After thorough examination and a few days of observation, Tri-State Bird Rescue reported that both falcons were in great condition and ready to be returned to their nest. On Wednesday, June 12, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service raptor biologist Craig Koppie attempted to reintroduce the two juveniles, both females, to their parents.  

With the actual nest site a precarious perch inaccessible to humans, Mr. Koppie elected to place the falcons on the catwalk of the bridge, giving them a safer venue for continuing to exercise their wings and to make short flights. “Returning the young to the nest at this age is often difficult and requires a plan so the release will not end up in the same manner – with birds falling to the ground again,” he said. “To minimize risk of the birds immediately taking flight before they’re ready, I immersed the young falcons in water to soak their body and flight feathers. This makes the fledglings heavy and wet, and they will not have the desire to bolt once released. I also placed food (quail) along the catwalk before taking them to the top of the bridge so the young falcons would concentrate on eating while they were drying off.” 

As he scaled the bridge to release the juveniles, the adult falcons recognized their offspring from on high and became aggressive toward him; Mr. Koppie took this behavior as an excellent sign that the young birds were still being defended by their parents, and that the adults would continue to attend to their offspring’s needs. 

Thus, a successful release, and it seemed that all was well with the young falcons – with a little luck they would be airborne again in a day or two, this time for good. However, heavy thunderstorms were forecast over the next few days and strong winds could have dashed hopes for the falcons’ survival. Division of Fish & Wildlife biologist Anthony Gonzon was determined to monitor the birds in the storms’ aftermath. Arriving at St. Georges Bridge in the early morning Friday, June 14, he immediately located one of the adult peregrines on the catwalk beneath the bridge. Panning across the arches, he spotted one of the juveniles, a poignant sighting, Mr. Gonzon recalled: “At the very least, one of the young birds had survived the storms, and better yet, it could fly!” 

Gonzon spent more time combing the horizon for the second juvenile rescue. During that time, the other adult falcon flew in with food for the first juvenile and tried to coax it off the crossbeam of the arch where it was first observed. The young bird made a couple of attempts to take flight, but elected to stay put and wait for the adult to deliver its food. When the adult landed, the young falcon quickly ran to it, stole the carcass of a bird away and made a fast break for cover. 

“But there was still no sign of the second juvenile,” Mr. Gonzon recalled. Time and circumstances conspired against a sighting when, suddenly, on the north bank of the canal, he saw both adult falcons, clearly agitated and diving at some unseen threat. “A quick look through a spotting scope and there it was – the second peregrine fledgling! The parents obviously had been protecting her. Although she still had a little down on her head, she could fly, and fly well enough to perch on a dead tree along the canal.” The peregrine parents successfully drove off whatever threat they had detected, and the young bird flew back to the catwalk under the bridge, capping a restoration success. And evidence, according to Mr. Gonzon, “that Delaware’s peregrine falcon population had grown by two!” 

“We work hard to reunite young birds of prey with their parents or a foster family whenever we can,” said Lisa Smith, executive director of Tri-State Bird Rescue & Research. “Young birds of prey have so much to learn from the adults – how to hunt, how to behave socially, where to roost, etc. We are delighted that these two falcons can continue to grow up in the wild.”

Photo credits: Top, Russ Carlson. Bottom: USFWS/Craig Koppie.

Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 250

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DNREC Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Blotter: June 4-11; Reminder for the week: Visitors to C&D Canal Conservation Area reminded to heed signs

DOVER (June 14, 2013) – To achieve public compliance through education and enforcement actions that help conserve Delaware’s fish and wildlife resources and ensure safe boating and public safety, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement agents between June 4 and 11 made 1,649 contacts with anglers, hunters, boaters and the general public, including 83 boating safety/fishing regulation compliance checks. Agents responded to 38 complaints and issued 39 citations, 17 of which were associated with increased Fish and Wildlife Enforcement presence at the C&D Canal Conservation Area (formerly the C&D Canal Wildlife Area) and the associated recreational trail currently under construction. Incidents of particular note included: 

  • On June 10, in connection with a May 31 incident at the Woodland Beach Wildlife Area, agents arrested Robert B. Logan, 21, of Townsend, and charged him with felony disregarding command of a police officer, reckless endangering, resisting arrest, driving with a suspended or revoked license, leaving the scene of a collision resulting in injury, failure to report a collision resulting in injury, aggressive driving, operating a motor vehicle at unreasonable speed, failure to yield right of way, failure to signal intention, and trespassing after hours in a state wildlife area. Logan was arraigned in the Kent County Court of Common Pleas, entered a not guilty plea and was released on $4,500 unsecured bond pending trial at a later date.
     
  • On June 10, Harry Harp, 83, of Millsboro, was cited for checking more than two recreational crab pots in Herring Creek. Under Delaware law, recreational crabbers are permitted to tend no more than two crab pots. 
  • On June 3 and June 8 at the St. George’s Bridge, agents rescued two immature peregrine falcons and transported them to Tri-State Bird Rescue in Newark. Tri-State reported that both birds were successfully returned to their nest.

Citations issued by violation type included the following, with the number of charges in parentheses:

Wildlife Conservation: Operating a motor vehicle off an established roadway in a state wildlife area (6)*, operating a motor vehicle in a closed area in a state wildlife area (7)*, driving without a license (1)*, and damaging state property (1)*, New Castle County; Trespassing after hours in a state wildlife area (1), Kent County.

Fisheries Conservation: Recreational: Unlicensed fishing (1), and possession of undersized Atlantic croaker (1), Kent County; Possession of undersized blue crab (2), tending more than two recreational crab pots (1), and possession of undersized summer flounder (2), Sussex County.

Boating Safety: Operating a vessel with insufficient number of life jackets aboard (1), Kent County; No life jacket on child age 12 or younger as required by law (1), and operating an unregistered motor vessel (1), Sussex County.

Public Safety: Operating an unlicensed motor vehicle in a state wildlife area (1)*, and loitering to engage or solicit another to engage in sex (1)*, New Castle County; Criminal impersonation (1), felony disregarding command of a police officer (1), reckless endangering (1), resisting arrest (1), driving with a suspended or revoked license (1), leaving the scene of a collision resulting in injury (1), failure to report a collision resulting in injury (1), aggressive driving (1), operating a motor vehicle at unreasonable speed (1), failure to yield right of way (1), and failure to signal intention (1), Kent County.

*These citations were issued in connection with violations at the C&D Canal Conservation Area.

 Are you AWARE?

With 17 citations issued at the C&D Canal Conservation Area this week, the Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section reminds visitors to be patient and comply with new rules and posted signage – some of which are temporary – while construction on the new Michael N. Castle Trail proceeds. To ensure public safety, agents are strictly enforcing regulations prohibiting motor vehicle access to the trail and encouraging visitors to park in designated areas and walk. 

Designed primarily for walking, jogging, bicycling, and horseback riding, the Michael N. Castle Trail has been in the planning phase for more than seven years, during which numerous public comment sessions were held regarding its design and location. 

New permanent gates have been installed to restrict motor vehicle access to the completed portions of the trail. Gates on the north side of the canal are currently closed, restricting access to the lower tier road from the eastern-most point near the Branch Canal at Delaware City through and including the Summit Marina area. 

Until construction activities are complete, access on the upper tier roads between the Gunning Bedford School and Summit Marina will also be restricted limiting access to the ponds near the railroad bridge. Once construction is complete, vehicles will still be permitted to access most upper level roads for hunting and fishing activities. 

The 5,100-acre C&D Canal Conservation Area near St. Georges encompasses the north and south banks of the canal and part of the eastern shoreline of the Delaware River. The conservation area also offers hunting and fishing opportunities, boating access, and the Summit Retriever Training Area. 

The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx .

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 246

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Heavy rains prompt mosquito alert and advisory; DNREC Mosquito Control working to thwart big rise in numbers

DOVER (June 11, 2013) – Due to heavy rainfall Delaware has received in the last week – and with more rain forecast through the weekend – there will be plenty of surface water for the state’s mosquito species to lay their eggs with great numbers of mosquitoes expected to hatch in the near future.  

This confluence of ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes means homeowners should eliminate as much standing water found in containers from their property as quickly as possible – and encourage their neighbors to do the same. By draining or removing items that collect water, such as buckets, birdbaths, rain barrels, old tires, flower pot liners, depressions in tarps covering boats, clogged rain gutters, and unused swimming pools, homeowners can significantly reduce mosquito breeding habitat in their yards. 

DNREC Mosquito Control staff will be going through their normal triage of inspecting and treating the largest mosquito-producing habitats, including coastal marshes, impoundments, freshwater wetlands, inter-dunal swales, and problematic roadside ditches/medians. However, Mosquito Control has a limited amount of time to inspect and treat all of the above habitats before adult mosquitoes emerge. Even if successful on every aspect, waves of adult mosquitoes will be emerging over the next two weeks from untreated yards, ditches, flooded fields, woodland pools, and other habitat that Mosquito Control did not have the resources to inspect/treat due to the sheer volume of geography to cover after a statewide rain episode of this magnitude. 

The only recourse at this time is for the public to call DNREC Mosquito Control and request ultra-low volume spraying (fogging) to reduce the number of adult mosquitoes in a given area. This includes neighborhoods, developments, towns, and individual rural properties. Anyone planning outdoor events during the second half of June also should consider this request to the Mosquito Control Section in advance of the event. 

To help the Mosquito Control Section determine when and where to provide control services, report intolerable numbers of biting mosquitoes as follows:

  • New Castle County and northern Kent County from Dover north, call Mosquito Control’s Glasgow office at 302-836-2555
  • Remainder of southern Kent County and all of Sussex County, call Mosquito Control’s Milford office at 302-422-1512

For more information on Delaware’s Mosquito Control program, please call the main office at 302-739-9917, or visit http://www.fw.delaware.gov/Services/Pages/MosquitoSection.aspx.

 Contact: Michael Globetti, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 241

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DNREC Fish & Wildlife Enforcement Blotter: May 21-28; Reminder for the week: Visitors to C&D Canal area encouraged to observe new rules

DOVER (May 31, 2013) – To achieve public compliance through education and enforcement actions that help conserve Delaware’s fish and wildlife resources and ensure safe boating and public safety, DNREC Division of Fish & Wildlife Enforcement agents between May 21 and 28 made 1,936 contacts with anglers, hunters, boaters and the general public, including 295 boating safety/fishing regulation compliance checks. Agents responded to 85 complaints and issued 69 citations, five of which were associated with increased Fish and Wildlife Enforcement presence at the C&D Canal Conservation Area (formerly the C&D Canal Wildlife Area) and the associated recreational trail currently under construction. Incidents of particular note included: 

  • Late at night on May 24, Enforcement agents responded to a boating accident in which a 22-foot Four Winns cabin cruiser collided with a stone jetty at the mouth of the C&D Canal. The severely-damaged vessel was estimated a total loss. The vessel’s operator, Gregory Mount, 46, of Essington, Pa., was cited for one count of negligent operation. A passenger who appeared to have suffered minor injuries received first aid from responding volunteer EMTs from the Delaware City Fire Company, but declined additional medical treatment. The vessel was recovered the next day by a salvage company. 

Citations issued by violation type included the following, with the number of charges in parentheses: 

Wildlife Conservation: Operating a motor vehicle off an established roadway in a state wildlife area (3), and damaging state property in a wildlife area (2), New Castle County; Trespassing after hours in a state wildlife area (2), Sussex County. 

Fisheries Conservation: Recreational: Unlicensed fishing (24), New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties; Possession of undersized blue crab (1), Kent County; Illegal use of non-circle hooks for fishing during striped bass spawning season (2), possession of undersized weakfish (6), unlawful possession of river herring (2), over-the-limit recreational crab pots (1), and possession of undersized Atlantic croaker (1), Sussex County.

Boating Safety: Operating a vessel with insufficient number of life jackets aboard (3), and no ramp certificate (2), New Castle and Sussex counties; Operating an unregistered motor vessel (4), Kent and Sussex counties; Negligent operation of a vessel (1), New Castle County; Insufficient visual distress signals (2), Kent County; No life jacket on child age 12 or younger as required by law (1), operating an unregistered motor vessel (1), water skiing without required observer (1), operating personal watercraft without required fire extinguisher (1), no boating safety certificate (3), and allowing use of non-compliant vessel (1), Sussex County. 

Public Safety: Clamming in polluted area (3), New Castle County.

Other: Lewdness (1), and failure to signal intention (1), Kent County; Littering (1), Sussex County.

Are you AWARE?

The Division of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section asks visitors to the 5,100-acre C&D Canal Conservation Area (formerly the C&D Canal Wildlife Area) near St. Georges to be patient and comply with new rules – some of which are temporary – while construction on the new Michael Castle Trail proceeds. To ensure public safety, agents are strictly enforcing regulations prohibiting motor vehicle access to the trail and encouraging visitors to park in designated areas and walk. 

Designed primarily for walking, jogging, bicycling, and horseback riding, the Michael Castle Trail has been in the planning phase for more than seven years, during which numerous public comment sessions were held regarding its design and location. 

New permanent gates have been installed to restrict motor vehicle access to the completed portions of the trail. Gates on the north side of the canal are currently closed, restricting access to the lower tier road from the eastern-most point near the branch canal at Delaware City through and including the Summit Marina area. 

Until construction activities are complete, access on the upper tier roads between the Gunning Bedford School and Summit Marina will also be restricted limiting access to the ponds near the railroad bridge. Once construction is complete, vehicles will still be permitted to access most upper level roads for hunting and fishing activities. 

The C&D Canal Conservation Area encompasses the north and south banks of the canal and part of the eastern shoreline of the Delaware River. The conservation area also offers hunting and fishing opportunities, boating access, and the Summit Retriever Training Area. 

The DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife recognizes and thanks the majority of anglers, hunters and boaters who comply with and support Delaware’s fishing, hunting and boating laws and regulations. Citizens are encouraged to report fish and wildlife and boating violations to the Delaware Fish and Wildlife Enforcement Section by calling 302-739-4580. Wildlife violations may also be reported anonymously to Operation Game Theft by calling 800-292-3030 or online at www.dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Hunting/Pages/OpGameTheft.aspx.

Contact: Joanna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902 

Vol. 43, No. 222

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National Fishing Week starts; anglers invited to fish for free in Delaware waters June 8 & 9

DOVER (May 31, 2013) – Been thinking of casting a line into a nearby stream or daydreaming about a sunny afternoon at the beach with your surf rod, but just haven’t gotten around to purchasing your 2013 Delaware fishing license yet? Then you’ve got an angler’s good luck already for catching the opportunity to try fishing for free for a couple of days, thanks to DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife.

To celebrate National Fishing Week, June 1-9, the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife invites you to test your favorite Delaware waters for a taste of this year’s fishing, clamming and crabbing seasons by offering free fishing days on Saturday and Sunday, June 8 and 9. On these two days, anyone may fish the state’s waters without a fishing license.

Anglers are reminded that even though they don’t need a license on those two days, if they intend to fish June 8 or 9, they are still required to obtain a free Fisherman Identification Network (F.I.N.) number. A free F.I.N. number can be obtained online at www.delaware-fin.com or by calling 1-800-432-9228. Anglers also are required to comply with Delaware’s fishing regulations, including size and daily catch limits. 

National Fishing Week festivities will also include DNREC’s 27th Annual Youth Fishing Tournament from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, June 8. Sponsored by the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Enforcement Section, the event will take place at a pond in each county: Ingrams Pond in Millsboro, Wyoming Pond in Wyoming’s Town Park and the dog training area at Lums Pond State Park in Bear. 

The Youth Fishing Tournament is part of Delaware’s Children in Nature Initiative, a statewide effort to improve environmental literacy in Delaware, create opportunities for children to participate in enriching outdoor experiences, combat childhood obesity and promote healthy lifestyles. Delaware’s multi-agency initiative, which partners state and federal agencies with community organizations, is part of the national No Child Left Inside program. 

With the exception of this one weekend, resident and non-resident anglers from the ages of 16 through 64 who fish, crab or clam in any Delaware waters – including ponds, impoundments, streams, rivers, bays and ocean – are required to purchase a fishing license. Delaware residents 65 or older and both residents and non-residents under age 16 do not have to purchase a license. Licenses are required for non-residents age 65 and older. 

Fishing licenses for Delaware residents cost $8.50, while non-residents pay $20 a year or $12.50 for a seven-day license. Licenses may be purchased online, at DNREC’s Richardson and Robbins Building, 89 Kings Highway, Dover, or at license agents located in sporting goods stores, hardware stores, bait and tackle shops and other businesses throughout the state.

The 2013 Fishing Guide, which includes complete details on fishing regulations, licensing, the F.I.N. program and exemptions, is also available from the DNREC Dover office, licensing agents statewide and on the Division of Fish and Wildlife website.  

To purchase a Delaware fishing license online, view the Fishing Guide, or for more information on fishing licenses, please visit the DNREC Fisheries homepage at www.fw.delaware.gov/Fisheries/Pages/Fisheries.aspx. For more information, please call 302-739-9918.

Contact: JoAnna Wilson, DNREC Public Affairs, 302-739-9902

Vol. 43, No. 221

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