Falcons return to Ironton-Russell Bridge, nesting season near

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

For the last six years, they have become one of the harbingers of spring for the Ironton area.

Ohio Department of Natural Resources officials said a pair of peregrine falcons have established housekeeping again under the Ironton-Russell Bridge.

While officials are not absolutely certain, it is likely the female is Lucy, the bird who has nested there in previous years.

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Biologists have not yet been able to get a good look at the female’s leg band. The male that has accompanied her to Ironton in the past has never been banded and is usually called Outlaw.

“The male usually shows up early and does his courtship thing,” said Mark Hemming, wildlife management supervisor for the ODNR District 4. “They are monogamous and they show up the same place each year. We checked and found one bird March 10 and then two birds March 17. They’re still going through their courtship ritual. They’ve been flying around the bridge.”

Hemming said very soon, the female will likely start making depressions in the grit on the bridge and that is where she will lay her eggs. Lucy has typically laid 4 eggs in the past.

Within 32-24 days, the eggs will hatch and there will be the pitter-patter of little wings. When the hatchlings are three weeks old, wildlife officials will band the little birds, marking when and where they were born.

Vicki Ervin, with the ODNR’s Columbus office, said Ironton’s falcons may be lagging behind a bit in the romance category, compared with the approximately 16 other peregrine pairs.

“Five or six have already started nesting,” she said. “We think the others will start soon, too. Some take a bit longer to get started.”

Two pairs have already produced eggs. They are located in Hamilton Township and in Cleveland. In addition to the 17 pairs of peregrines, ODNR officials have also spotted five single falcons.

Although removed from the federal endangered species list in 1999, peregrine falcons remain on the state’s endangered species list.

Ohio began introducing the birds into cities in 1989. In 2005, 18 nesting pairs of peregrine falcons produced a record 57 young falcons.

In spite of the birds’ protectiveness of their young, usually resulting in the walkway to the bridge being closed for a week weeks each spring, some area residents seem to look forward each year to the falcons’ return.

“They’re fascinating birds, neat to watch,” Hemming said. “We’ve had people lined on the banks of the river with their telescopes watching them.”