Peregrine Falcon Nesting Habitat
The New Jersey Department of Transportation's (NJDOT) Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridges Project is located within the Barnegat Bay, an area known to be environmentally sensitive due to the presence of natural resources including Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV), wetlands, and protected, threatened and endangered species.
NJDOT established early consultation with key agencies including the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's (NJDEP) Endangered and Nongame Species Program (ENSP) and other state and local environmental protection agencies to identify these resources and secure early agency approvals.
NJDEP designated the existing Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge as a potential nesting habitat for the State endangered Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) (pdf 53k). In the spring of 2015, after construction had started, a new pair of falcons began nesting on the bridge.
In compliance with permit conditions, NJDOT quickly sought out consultation with ENSP to determine a plan of action. New Jersey Peregrine Falcon regulations typically restrict construction activity within 1,000 feet of an established nest during the nesting season from February through August. This restriction would have had serious implications on the construction schedule.
Through close coordination with ENSP, NJDOT worked to amend the construction schedule to minimize construction activity adjacent to the nest without contributing to a construction delay.
Since construction will continue through the next several nesting periods and peregrine falcons are known to return to the same nesting locations each season, NJDOT wanted to ensure that they had a safe nesting habitat to return to in subsequent seasons. A temporary nest box
|was constructed and placed on the new Route 72 Manahawkin Bay Bridge, and the box will be maintained through the 2018 nesting season. This box was designed to provide adequate protection and space for nesting and the fledging of any chicks, and is situated at a location that will not be impacted by construction during future nesting seasons or disrupt the construction schedule. The birds returned for the 2016 nesting season and are happily taking advantage of their new, temporary nest box. In late May, two chicks were spotted in the nest box!
In February 2018, a permanent nest box was constructed to the southeast of the bay bridges, and the temporary nest box has been removed. This new location is considered to be a safe area for the falcons that are hoped to return in the Spring season. This new nesting box is equipped with similar features as the temporary box. The permanent nest box includes access for ESNP to accommodate banding of chicks in the future.
All photos credited to: Readings from the North Side, 11.11.15