Friday, June 25, 2010

Why No Peregrine Patrol?

I have gotten a few emails wondering why the Division of Wildlife is not organizing volunteers to help keep watch over the juveniles as they take their first flights as is done in a few other cities. Here's the scoop: Back when we were first hacking/releasing peregrines in the beginning stages of the Division’s peregrine program (~1988-90) we had an organized fledge watch (officially called Peregrine Patrol) since young birds were out on their own with no adult falcons to care for them and at that time the survival of each and every bird was crucial to contribute to the restoration effort. The project was also brand new and not many people downtown knew about peregrines, the program or would know what to do in the event of a downed falcon—if they would even recognize the bird to be a peregrine.

After the hacking portion of the project was complete and for the first few years that we had nesting peregrines in Columbus we continued the Peregrine Patrol (~1993-95). Over the years the species became more rooted and successful in Ohio. Nesting situations differ from hacking in that fledglings have experienced adults watching out for them. The population had recovered to the point that the survival of each and every bird was not as critical as in the beginning. Further, the knowledge of the program was much more known by folks working downtown thus, we have seen over the years that when there is a downed bird it doesn’t take long for the general person to recognize it as a peregrine and take the appropriate steps. Sometimes people may not know to contact the Division directly, but through our coordination with the Columbus Police Department, Ohio State Highway Patrol and downtown building managers they can usually get a hold of someone fairly quickly who does know who to call. Because of these factors and waning interest in watching during fledge we discontinued the organized volunteers-on-the-ground effort, i.e., Peregrine Patrol.

Each year at fledge I continue to alert select downtown building managers when the young are expected to start flying and provide basic instructions and emergency contact information should any of their building folks become aware of a downed peregrine. The word is out—the program is well-known—and many folks that work downtown are on alert and even if they don’t personally know what to do, they can usually find someone relatively quickly who does.

Over the past couple of years a few individuals have expressed interest in resurrecting a volunteer effort to watch from the street level. It never hurts to have extra eyes out there, however, the Division of Wildlife will not actively pursue organizing an effort for the reasons explained above. Even though this agency is not taking a lead role in organizing volunteers, we fully support the interest of individuals who do want to be out there and where appropriate I have provided direction on how to handle a "falcon emergency" as well as who to contact should intervention be necessary. Ohio's peregrine project continues great success throughout the state whether folks choose to watch via their computers or make a trip to watch birds at their local nest. We thank everyone for their interest!