Just down the road from The Atlantic Hotel is a water tower with a pair of nesting Peregrine. For several years they have been making a go of it in a tiny little nook under the tower and failing miserably each time.
It was not uncommon for wildlife officials to get calls from the municipal offices below the tower leaving messages like, “Hey, there is a huge baby bird sitting on top of Frank’s car again, and it looks even more scary this time” or “There is another dead falcon in the lot, please come mop it up.” You see, if you’re a falcon, or really any living thing actually, before you take that first leap of faith off something like a water tower you better have worked and tested your wings a little. But there was simply no room for the babies to flappity-flap in the cramped little nook their parents had chosen, so they generally tended to fall straight off the tower and onto the pavement below the first time they attempted to fly away from home.
Poor Kathy Clark would go by to check the site and find grounded juvenile PEFA literally walking around the sidewalks below, with few options other than to stick them in a tree and hope for the best. Once, a neighborhood resident found one of the juveniles in his cramped backyard behind the tower, and when Kathy arrived, the owner led her through the small, dark house full of confused looking children to a laundry room out back with a very confused looking baby PEFA.
Then finally last year the tower needed a paint job. The city needed some special permission from NJ’s endangered species team on account of the nesting falcons. “Go for it”, said the State, “but while you’re at it, you have to build some type of proper nest box for those poor falcons.”
There was no problem with this arrangement, other than figuring out just how to add the costs into an already set, and very tight, city budget. During the ensuing project delays in figuring it all out, the paint contractor caught wind of the issue and said “You know what? Screw it. I’ll just build it and won’t charge you for it. My dad loved wildlife and I have many fond memories of watching the birds with him. Don’t worry about it.” Soon after, it was done.
And so it was built, and it looks like those falcons are moving in this season.
There are so many things I love about this story. First of all, it has PEFA in it. They make any story really, really great.
Next, it underscores how important sharing a love of wildlife with children really is, and what a huge, amplified impact it has on adulthood. It is like the magic of compound interest, only way more valuable. Animals make us better people. Especially when we experience them when we are still curious enough, spirited enough, and free enough to appreciate their magic.
Lastly, what a great guy this painter truly is. I believe his name was Paul Bowman. Of course it is great that he helped some falcons and honored his dad. But more than that, a problem and a challenge was thrown in his path. He didn’t resist, nor whine, nor dodge, nor milk it for personal gain…. he just dealt with it and moved on and left the world a better place. Everything about this simple act represents the very unique, and very real spirit of New Jersey that sometimes eludes people who have not done some quality time in the state. Kind, straight-shooting, hard-working, helpful, generous. I freaking love New Jersey. There is no problem we can’t solve.
Thank you Paul Bowman, thank you PEFA. I hope one day I too can see the opportunities in the obstacles that drop in my path and respond as graciously and effortlessly.