Beauty & The Bridge

Age-old rumors of peregrine falcons nesting high over Yaquina Bay are hereby confirmed

Ranking right up there with tales of King Arthur and Merlin, are rumors whispered by wizened old coasties of peregrine falcons that, once upon a time, held court on the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

For history buffs (and anyone else, in fact, who might appreciate the striking contrast between the natural beauty of the birds, vs. the man-made beauty of the bridge), I offer this footage from April 2011, when a pair of fecund falcons established an aerie high above the waters of Yaquina Bay.

All these years later, it strikes me now as possible that such a sight from “days of yore” might never be seen again, unless and until the bridge ceases to be the never-ending cash-cow construction project it became back then, and remains today. I have plentiful footage extending through 2012 of falcons keeping busy on-and-around the bridge, but for all the banging and scraping and painting this structural wonder has attracted in years since, I’ve not seen peregrine activity like this again. With years of new funding sure to flow from Congress’ much ballyhooed Infrastructure Bill, I imagine I’m more likely to see Sir Lancelot charging across the span on a fire-breathing steed to save South Beach from further development, than peregrines trying to nest there again, anytime soon.

But with a nod to the wisdom inherent in “never say never” … I would of course love to be wrong.

Having never seen a peregrine in my life (thank you, DDT) until I moved to the coast in my mid-forties (twentyish years ago, now), I was completely clueless as to their habits and haunts. Thus am I hoping to be forgiven for the audio you’ll hear of me thinking out loud as the camera rolled, wondering at first if I had stumbled upon discovery of the most voracious species of raptor inhabiting this hemisphere (cue David Attenborough). Watching the male catch-‘n-clean dinner after dinner, day after day, it wasn’t until I witnessed a sudden hook-up with his missus (see 02:30) that I finally understood he was hunting for two. It took me awhile longer to find the nest.

As shown in the video, the male would obligingly deliver dinner to the very doorstep of the nest. But when the incubating missus would refuse to respond, as she frequently did, he would retreat to a nearby tree and call out to assure her that leftovers would be waiting in a designated cache. Between feedings, the male would vigilantly stand guard on a ledge on the side of the bridge, where, head spinning on a swivel, nothing escaped his wide-eyed scrutiny. I found it fascinating to note how willing he appeared to ignore the wide array of human activity swirling all about the nest site — but let an innocent turkey vulture wander unaware on the wind into this falcon’s no-fly zone, and whoosh! Not even a namesake F-16 Fighting Falcon could have provided faster defense.

When the passage of time ultimately made it clear, even to these prospective parents, that a new era of eyas would not soon dawn here (like Camelot, perhaps, a dream too ideal to actually materialize from the misty realm of myth amidst the rusty beams of the bridge), Roy Lowe of USFWS reportedly worked a deal with ODOT to send a climber over the edge to collect and examine the unhatched eggs (see 03:50). I don’t know what, if any, information might have been gleaned from such effort.

So, for history buffs — historical proof positive of peregrine falcons nesting on the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

And for everyone else who (like me) simply find themselves beyond bedazzled by such imagery of Birds & Beauty on the Bridge — it’s just one more reflection of Nature’s Coast living up to legend.

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