PETERSBURG — Indiana's peregrine falcon nesting season officially began March 15 when the first of three eggs – as of Tuesday – was laid in a nesting box constructed by Jasper Eagle Scout Luke Hoffman.
Hoffman, 17, a junior at Jasper High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 182, built the 4-by-4 box lined with stone for his Eagle Scout project. He installed it last year on top of a tall boiler facility at the Indianapolis Power & Light Petersburg Generating Station where his father, Greg Hoffman, works.
John S. Castrale, the Indiana Division of Fish and Wildlife's nongame bird biologist, said the added bonus to Luke Hoffman's nesting box is the Web camera built into it. It allows the nesting falcon to be viewed at: http://bit.ly/1glHziE.
“Certainly, it's one of the most successful Eagle Scout projects I've been involved with,” said Castrale as he discussed the most recent still photos from the nesting box. Widespread use of pesticides in the 1950s and 1960s eliminated many peregrine falcon populations, according to the Midwest Peregrine Society. One particular chemical, DDT, caused peregrine eggshells to thin, resulting in egg breakage and reproductive failure. A DDT ban in the 1970s helped clear the way for recovery efforts that included release efforts in the Midwest in 1982.
Peregrines, who like to nest on tall cliffs in the wild, have taken to nesting on tall buildings, smokestacks and bridges. Their diet consists mostly of birds taken in flight including pigeons and doves.
In Fort Wayne, a female falcon laid an egg in a nesting box on top of One Summit Square on Wednesday, said Erica Putt of Indiana Michigan Power. It was a year to the day that a falcon laid an egg in the same box. The female hasn't been officially identified, but it could be Moxie, the female who hatched four chicks in 2013. The falcons are banded, but officials haven't been able to read the band on the female. However, her mate from last year, Jamie, has been identified.
Peregrines usually lay three to five eggs in March or April and they hatch about 30 days later.
A webcam allows the public to see the Fort Wayne falcon in her nesting box at http://www.aep.com/environment/falconcam/.
Castrale said Indiana's peregrine release efforts began in the mid-1990s in cities like Indianapolis, Fort Wayne and South Bend. A nesting box was placed at the Petersburg Generating Station about 10 years ago. Falcons were spotted there three years ago but they never successfully nested.
The old nesting box at the Petersburg power plant deteriorated, Greg Hoffman said. When he learned the power plant was going to reroof a tall tower, Luke began working with Castrale to build and locate a new, improved nesting box.
He sought and obtained donations for the project from businesses and individuals. Matrix Integration donated the Web camera and Krempp Lumber provided construction materials.
The new nesting box was in place last year but it initially went unused. Luke was awarded his Eagle last June and, this year, the new box attracted the wanted attention.
The nesting falcon laid its first egg March 15 and its most recent March 20.
Luke is pretty happy about the activity in the nesting box and he admits to feeling a sense of accomplishment.
Castrale says Indiana's initial goal was to get four nesting pairs of peregrines in the state when reintroduction began. The long-term goal was to work up to 16 nesting pairs.
Last year, Castrale says, Indiana had two dozen pairs of peregrines and 17 of them laid eggs. As a result, the peregrine was removed from Indiana's endangered list.
That's about as good as it can get. Castrale says peregrines are very territorial and there are only so many Hoosier cliffs, skyscrapers, tall bridges and power plant towers available for them. They will never become an abundant raptor for that reason, he said.