My dad loved to say:
“Whenever I drive over the Causeway, my knuckles instantly turn from white to red.”
We all know that feeling of letting-it-all-go which we experience the moment we see the Island laid out in front of us as we speed over the bridge. I’ve known people who cry when they come over the Causeway. I mean eastbound. Everybody cries driving westbound. And not because of traffic, or because they have to pee so bad, but because they are just too happy at the sight of LBI to hold it in any longer, so they let it all go. The tears. Not the pee.
Well fasten your seat belts and get a good grip because this is one of the most exciting Readings of all time. You probably believe, as I once did, that the euphoric experience of driving over the Causeway just couldn’t get any better. Well, it turns out it can and it is about to.Heading out to explore the Wonders From Under The Causeway in 2017 withTara from Parsons Brinckerhoff and biologist Tina Shutz from the NJ DOT.
Longtime Readers might remember that we’ve been following the exciting development of Peregrine Falcon starting to nest under the Causeway over the past few years. Sadly, the adorable Falcons picked the worst possible time in decades to start doing this: just as construction began on our brand new Causeway. Thankfully, they picked the best state in the world to pull these shenanigans as the triple threat of the NJ DOT, the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Dept., and The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ are full of good people, ready to help make sure no Falcons are needlessly destroyed.
For a little background on the Causeway’s lovebirds, see past Readings:
- The Gem Of The Bridge (2015)
- Our Very Own Bridgelettes (2015)
- The Wonders From Under The Causeway (2016)
- The Loss of Wonder: Shaq Is Dead (2016)
Despite having built the PEFA (Peregrine Falcons) a nice platform so they would not have to nest on the naked pier, and then a bigger platform so any resultant babies might have a better chance at survival, our Causeway woefully suffers a few fundamental engineering problems no matter what we do, as far as PEFA are concerned: it is over water, it is not high enough, and there is heavy construction going on everywhere.A tough place to raise a family.
Despite everyone’s best hopes last year, ‘lil Shaq and ‘lil Dutchman plunged straight into the water the first time they attempted to fly and promptly drown. Maybe they would have made it with a little more height, perhaps with a little less construction.
Whatever the case, our PEFA returned this spring for another shot at Wonder Under The Causeway, so the NJ DOT, the NJ ENSP, and the CWFNJ also returned to help them through it.Kathy Clark & Ben Wurst suit up for baby danger.
It appeared the adorable Falcons might actually have been successful again this year, but unfortunately, a little too late. Fledge dates (the official day baby PEFA are ready to spread their wings and fly from the bridge for the first time) and the bridge construction schedule were on a head-on collision. Work was going on almost directly above the nest which is not only a risk to the babies, but also to the adults who have to fly in out of the area all day long to murder pigeons and feed their little ones. It is also a risk to the construction as the adults become violently defensive because… well, they have babies!
Losing a baby Falcon hurts real bad, but losing a single adult is like losing thirty baby Falcons because they will probably make that many over the course of their lifetime.
So it was time to call in the big guns. It was rescue time for Kathy Clark & Ben Wurst.Rescue Time.
Confusion sets in as Ben enters the Eyrie (PEFA nest)
Rule #1 of dealing with wild animals is: don’t talk about dealing with wild animals. Since we already broke that rule, let’s check Rule #2: expect the unexpected. Even though the whole team knew that rule, I don’t think anyone was expecting what they found up there. Not only were there no babies, there were three unhatched eggs. It was long past the expected hatch date for the pair. Perhaps the dates were off. More likely, the eggs were duds. Whatever the case, the eggs were removed for the safety of everyone: Mom, Dad, babies, the NJ DOT crews, and us.
But that’s only the first whoop-house surprise. Here is where the story gets good.Momma is Home! And she’s one of us.
While waiting for Ben to retrieve the eggs, I took several pictures of the adult birds, trying to get a clear picture of their band combos. Our resident female & alleged crab connoisseur Billie had been seen at the bridge earlier in the spring so everyone was expecting she was the current female.
But after almost going blind trying to read the tiny band combos in my blurry and dark photos, I finally got them transcribed and quickly realized something was wrong. The female was not Billie. She was and unknown-to-me “82/AN.” I dutifully reported it to Kathy Clark, and asked if she knew this bird.
Wait… what? Are you serious? Jim, you’ve reported this band combo to us 57.5 times over three years. You’ve called this bird “one of our own.” You said she was “The Queen of Surf City.” You said “She was born of Flowerpot.” You performed an amateur autopsy on her little brother, and kept him in your freezer when he died after hitting a telephone pole in Beach Haven.
You absurdly claimed she wanted to vote for Donald Trump!!!11!! JIM 82/AN IS JO DURT!!!111!!!
~ Kathy Clark