Introducing Bridgette: Just Another Peregrine Falcon.
I am Bridgette! Hear me Roar!
Friends, meet Bridgette. Bridgette is a naughty, bird eating, juvenile Peregrine Falcon. She is also a sweet, sweet girl I met one day while enjoying some time in the New Jersey wilderness.
But it's been a longer road for Bridgette to become the Wild Marsh Master that she is than you might assume. Bridgette comes from humble, and perilous beginnings, and would not be here at all without a little human intervention. How do we know such things? We know because of this:
Bridgette wearing some bling, courtesy of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. Bridgette: A.K.A. 59/AN.
You see, Bridgette was lovingly tagged as a young chick. Her right leg carries her official, and unreadable federal band, while her left leg has some more colorful & convenient bling that clearly identifies her as 59/AN. God bless those secondary bands.
It's always a big score to see a banded bird, and major bonus points when you can actually read the codes. With that info you can start Googling and see what you find. But I'll tell you right now: you can't swing a dead cat in the bird banding corner of the Internet without hitting Kathy Clark.
On the streets they call her the "Supervisory Zoologist for the Endangered & Nongame Species Program of the NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife" (for short). I prefer her official title: "The Great Mother of All Cool Things In New Jersey That You're Not Allowed To Shoot With A Gun". Since most of my emails to Kathy involve inane thoughts like "Why are Peregrines so awesome, and if I find one, can I play with it?", I was super excited to show off my band discovery.
She was kind enough to let us know that 59/AN was banded on June 3rd at a nest Drag Island, in Great Egg Harbor Bay. She was one of four chicks.
Doing a little research, we find this: New home built for peregrines away from Garden State Parkway bridge
It turns out Bridgette's parents were so destitute they were living under a bridge... a bridge that was set to be destroyed. Luckily, Kathy and her skilled minions from The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ were able to intervene and build a fancy new home for them nearby. Talk about Extreme Home Makeovers:
Extreme (Peregrine) Home Makeover, CWFNJ style!
Ben Wurst of the CWFNJ was kind enough to provide the above photo showing the rags to riches story: Bridgette's folks' new digs with the ratty old bridge in the background. Even better, he also had these:
Bridgette & Her Siblings as itty bitty babies
Ben Wurst holds a young Bridgette, just a year before I would photograph her miles away in the wild
The color bands have allowed us to identify generations of peregrines now. To wit, 59/AN's mom originated from Tuckahoe River in 2005, and that female's mom originated from Cobb Island, Virginia, in 2000. They're pretty much all in the same melting pot, though. NJ falcons have a substantial interaction with birds in the surrounding states, even though most NJ-nesters are still of NJ origin.
The real back story here is not tracing Bridgette's roots back to her fore-birds, but tracing her roots back to Kathy & Ben. Seeing a Peregrine Falcon hunting in the wild is a thrill. Capturing a good photo, even more so. Our tale shows precisely how we owe these pleasures to an extremely small group of dedicated people.
You can decide for yourself whether you care if we have thriving wildlife or not. That's a personal decision. But the fact is that humans, as we operate today, steamroll our wildlife, so the only way to preserve our wildlife now is to have some humans advocate for these creatures, and give them a loving hand when required, for the benefit of the rest of us.
Each time you observe some of our amazing wildlife, remember the story of Bridgette. Ponder that you may not have ever seen this "wild" bird at all if folks like Kathy & Ben had not been running around and checking bridges before they were demolished, building Peregrine McMansions in suitable locations, and otherwise caring for these animals as they must be cared for if they are to remain on Earth with us.
By my estimation, it's too tall an order to call on people to change our way of life and find ways to live a little more harmoniously with nature. But it's not too tall an order to make sure folks like Kathy & Ben can keep doing what absolutely needs to be done to keep some balance in the natural world of New Jersey.
Wait for it... here it comes...
Send money to the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ. Here come the Holidays. Give something to CWFNJ as a gift to someone who loves the shore. Or just give for the heck of it.
Bridgette's story makes it clear... if you value wildlife, you've got to support the people who make sure we have it. Click here to donate something... anything.
Or better yet, take a stuffed Snowy Owl home with you and help the CWFNJ!.