Peregrine falcons returning to the Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge this year will need to get ready for their close-ups. The International Bridge Administration (IBA) has installed a new nest camera, the “FalCam,” to allow people to watch them online this year.
While they may still fine-tune the vantage point and the zoom factor, the IBA now has the live video stream viewable at http://www.saultbridge.com/falcam.
The camera is coming online just in time for the seasonal return of the endangered raptors. While working with their partners at Siemens and Lighthouse.net to get the camera online earlier this week, IBA staff saw one of the birds appear onscreen.
“We were surprised that they were here already,” said International Bridge Engineer Karl Hansen. But, he said, birds have also appeared at nest boxes on the Portage Lake Lift Bridge between Houghton and Hancock. Webcams, viewable at http://pasty.com/nestbox.html, have been installed there in cooperation with the Copper Country Audubon Club to allow people to watch potential nesting activity.
Last year, a pair of peregrine falcons successfully nested on the International Bridge, hatching four chicks.
“This site has hatched 24 falcon chicks since 2010, when we put in the nest box and started counting,” said Hansen, “There were more before that but we don’t know the number.”
Michigan lost its peregrine falcons in the 1960s and 1970s due to the use of DDT and other environmental contaminants. Since conservation efforts started in the mid-1980s, the number of peregrine nests has slowly increased. Now there are about 40 falcon pairs actively trying to nest statewide, with one to two new pairs discovered most years.
The peregrine falcon has been removed from the federal endangered species list, but is listed as an endangered species in Michigan, protected by state and federal law. Peregrines have adapted to city habitats, nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges around the world.
The operation and maintenance of the International Bridge is totally self-funded, primarily through bridge tolls. It is not subsidized by any state, provincial or federal government entity.