Clang clang, clang clang, clangity-clang-clang clang!
I beat the aluminum ladder as hard as I could. “Jo Durt, I’m coming up there, so you’d better take off!” I yelled ferociously, straight up to the Bonnet Island igloo.
I honestly had no idea what I was expecting to find in that igloo, even though I’d had weeks to think about it. I was just glad we were about to finally know something after days of waiting patiently, praying for the best, fearing the worst, and trying in vain to imagine every scenario in between.
Because the Bonnet Island Tower off the Causeway bridge isn’t the only tower where we’ve been running cameras, and it isn’t the only tower where we’ve seen the loss of an experienced male to a naive, young interloper right at the start of the nesting season.
In fact, unbelievably, we had just seen the exact same thing happen at the natal site of the very same BE/68; the same young peregrine who has turned life completely upside down at the Bonnet Island tower.
Incredibly, BE/68’s father was also killed this spring while he and BE/68’s mother were laying their clutch of eggs, just days before BE/68 showed up at Bonnet Island.
It only takes a tiny bit of a storyteller’s imagination to consider that BE/68 could have seen his father killed and his home taken over by a bird his age, so flew off to the nearest tower and did the same.
Or maybe that BE/68 was being tolerated near his natal territory by his biological father, but was quickly chased off by his new stepfather so he quickly, chaotically, and desperately tried to find a new home on Bonnet Island.
Crazy, speculative, fascinating; we’ll never know for sure. Yet we don’t even need such additional, back-storied plot points and accessory twists because the basic facts of this story are unbelievable enough without them.
What we do know is that in the very last series of photos we collected from BE/68’s family home, where his father had been killed and now a young male just like himself was in charge of the territory, we saw BE/68’s mother eventually mating and renesting with the young interloper. A true peregrine doesn’t waste a season; no matter how difficult the circumstances might be. She probably realized her first set of eggs laid with BE/68’s father were never going to hatch so she moved forward, formed a bond with the new male, however weak and slapped together of a family they might be, and started all over again, racing the season’s clock.
So there was also a strong possibility that this would be the fate of Jo Durt at Bonnet Island. It was clear that BE/68 was not incubating the eggs he’d inherited. And he was just barely even helping to feed her while she tended the nest all alone. Jo Durt is surely an amazing peregrine mom; one of the best. But this is a finite world and there are limits to what any creature is capable of handling on its own. Perhaps she too would accept her losses, surrender, and try to piece the season back together with a haphazard renest attempt with BE/68.
I could barely stand it. Though not my conscious intention, I probably made this story into a two part Reading simply so I could give anyone reading this a virtual sense of dread and just a tiny taste of what I had to live with for what felt like an eternity this spring.
Thankfully, New Jersey’s Kathy Clark, our Mother of Peregrines, is as wise as she is skilled, and she soothed my constant, anxious desire to visit the igloo and know the fate of this nest with her calm calls for patience to let the new pair figure things out. In the event they were renesting with such a weak bond, disturbing them could only make things worse. And so we waited, and waited, and waited.
I think I actually screamed when I peeked into the igloo and found an enormous BOIS baby, who also started screaming too. Estimated to be about 18 days old, it was immediately clear that Jo Durt had chosen the unthinkable and somehow managed to incubate at least one of BridgeBoy’s original eggs to hatch, and to raise at least one the young this far. From what we have seen from the Little Egg Cams, it is also clear this is an almost unbelievable achievement for any, essentially, single mom.
We always knew Jo Durt was amazing, but this is next level motherhood. I’m in tears thinking of what it must have took, and what it still must be taking her to do this. I would give anything for that kind of drive, that kind of commitment, that kind of fortitude. Truly, she is an inspiration. I’m as proud of her as I am humbled by her. I also feel terrible for her. I love you Jo Durt!
Just a week later our little latch-key peregrine was banded BH/17 by Kathy Clark. And what a little beast he is! I have never been bitten, scratched, clawed, and deafened so ferociously by a young PEFA in all my life while I held him for Kathy. He is an absolute monster!
Despite having an empty crop (a sign that he needed, at least at the time, more food (confession, we gave him some chicken)) he was as feisty as they come and a total terror.
Perhaps he was made stronger by the difficult circumstances of his youth.
Or maybe he just has his mother Jo Durt’s, and his father BridgeBoy’s, spirit bursting out from deep inside somewhere.
This story is not over, as soon little Beasty will face the most difficult moment of his life: successfully fledging from the BOIS Tower. So mind your speed if you cross the Causeway Bridge to LBI, and be alert for falcons on the roadway.
As unfortunate and tragic as these circumstances have been, I’m amazed by this outcome and I’m thrilled by this outcome.
My only regret is that I wish you could have known your dad. Because he was something extraordinary.
Godspeed, you little Beast on the Bridge.