Sunday, May 29, 2005

A walk on the Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Today I felt like a tourist in my own city. I walked from Cadman Plaza Park in Brooklyn across the Brooklyn Bridge. I wanted to find out if any Peregrine Falcons had nested on the bridge again this year. As I walked along side hundreds of tourists I felt lucky that I could make this trip any time that I wanted.

The breeze off of the East River cooled an otherwise balmy day. The sky was a deep, almost indigo, color. Islands of downy, cumulus clouds drifted eastward. With the sun at my back I walked the wooden decking towards one of the world’s most photographed and painted bridge. I’ve lived in New York my entire life yet, before this morning, I’d never taken a photograph of it.

Brooklyn Bridge

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As I scanned the gridwork of cables and stone towers looming ahead of me I tried to see the bridge through the eyes of a Peregrine Falcon. Numerous cormorants passed above the bridge before descending to the water. Pigeons fluttered below the decking. I counted several starlings and robins traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan. At 276 feet the view from the top of the stone towers must extend to all five boroughs. It would also make it nearly impossible for a pigeon crossing the river to escape a peregrine careening towards him from that lofty perch.

Looking up below south arch of Manhattan tower

Falcon aerie is rectangular opening in the bottom center
(Photo credit - Rob J)

First falcon on turnbuckle on south side

Light patch in upper center is the first falcon
(Photo credit - Rob J)

Butt view of first falcon

(Photo credit - Rob J)

The falcons usually nest in a small maintenance opening built into the stone of the Manhattan tower. When it is being used as an aerie the young falcons inadvertently create a layer of whitewash on the wall below the hole. When I checked the hole this morning it looked as though the amount of whitewash hadn’t changed since last year. I was a little disappointed but decided to stick around and check the bridge for any adult falcons. It didn’t take long for me to find the first falcon perched on a turnbuckle above the “1875” stonework. I watched her for a long time hoping to see some interesting behavior. All she did was preen and sleep. In the meantime I became the unofficial photographer for couples wanting me to use their camera to shoot them on the bridge. I guess I have an honest face.

As noon was approached I spotted a second falcon coming in for a landing. He perched at the top of the northwestern most cable. There was an obvious difference in the size of the two birds. The first falcon appeared to be much larger; most likely the female. I don’t know if this pair is Jack and Diane of the “55 Water Street” nest but they were definitely a pair. When the female took off, the male followed. I watched them in my binoculars as they circled above the East River. They stayed close together as they hunted. I watched them passing over the Manhattan Bridge then lost them in the clouds as they continued flying north.

Peregrine on north side of Manhattan tower

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click to learn more about Peregrine Falcons in NYC-

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