Falcons protecting nest on bridge

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 6, 2008

It’s no longer Lucy. But don’t try to take a peak or you’ll get more than a peck from a very sharp beak.

Lady falcons who are sitting on a nest of potential babies don’t want you or anyone else nearby. Even if that nest is on the piers of the Ironton-Russell Bridge.

And if you do, watch out. Those claws are not to be confused with back scratchers.

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“I have a scar on my forehead that tells me how intimidating they are,” Cecil Townsend, county administrator for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said. A few years ago Townsend was out checking the bridge when Lucy came crashing down on him.

“They are very aggressive, very protective of their eggs,” he said.

That’s why the walkways across the bridge were closed when the first pair of falcons came to nest eight years ago.

“Lucy was a troublemaker,” Chris Smith, wildlife area supervisor of the Ohio department of Natural Resources, said. “She would whack people. She left scratches and bruises on people.”

Wednesday Smith was on the bridge checking on how this latest falcon family was coming along. From the color of the band on the female, Smith knows it is the second year for the mama to nest here. He’s not sure about the male.

But both are getting ready to be parents in about another month.

Right now there are only three eggs in the nest. However, falcons typically lay four eggs in each annual nesting in what is called a “clutch.”

Smith hopes to see a fourth in the coming days.

After the eggs hatch, the female will care for the babies for eight weeks. Then, it’s first flight for the little ones.

As to why this bridge has such pre-natal appeal for the predatory birds, Smith isn’t exactly sure.

“It kind of mimics their natural habitat,” he said. “The pier is somewhat similar to a cliff. That is high above something. That gives them a secure feeling. Their natural nesting habitat is the faces of cliff.”

But for those amateur birdwatchers wanting to take in the sights, Smith has some advice.

“The current pair is not as aggressive but it is not a good idea to go out there,” Smith said. “They are at their peak of aggression.”