The Resurrection of The Shack. Perhaps The Greatest Reading Of All Time.

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Watch out, There’s a Whoop-House Surprise coming up to greet you when you cross the Causeway.

My dad loved to say:

“Whenever I drive over the Causeway, my knuckles instantly turn from white to red.”

We all know that feeling of letting-it-all-go which we experience the moment we see the Island laid out in front of us as we speed over the bridge. I’ve known people who cry when they come over the Causeway. I mean eastbound. Everybody cries driving westbound. And not because of traffic, or because they have to pee so bad, but because they are just too happy at the sight of LBI to hold it in any longer, so they let it all go. The tears. Not the pee.

Well fasten your seat belts and get a good grip because this is one of the most exciting Readings of all time. You probably believe, as I once did, that the euphoric experience of driving over the Causeway just couldn’t get any better. Well, it turns out it can and it is about to.

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Heading out to explore the Wonders From Under The Causeway in 2017 withTara from Parsons Brinckerhoff and biologist Tina Shutz from the NJ DOT.

Longtime Readers might remember that we’ve been following the exciting development of Peregrine Falcon starting to nest under the Causeway over the past few years. Sadly, the adorable Falcons picked the worst possible time in decades to start doing this: just as construction began on our brand new Causeway. Thankfully, they picked the best state in the world to pull these shenanigans as the triple threat of the NJ DOT, the NJ Endangered & Nongame Species Dept., and The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ are full of good people, ready to help make sure no Falcons are needlessly destroyed.

For a little background on the Causeway’s lovebirds, see past Readings:

Despite having built the PEFA (Peregrine Falcons) a nice platform so they would not have to nest on the naked pier, and then a bigger platform so any resultant babies might have a better chance at survival, our Causeway woefully suffers a few fundamental engineering problems no matter what we do, as far as PEFA are concerned: it is over water, it is not high enough, and there is heavy construction going on everywhere.

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A tough place to raise a family.

Despite everyone’s best hopes last year, ‘lil Shaq and ‘lil Dutchman plunged straight into the water the first time they attempted to fly and promptly drown. Maybe they would have made it with a little more height, perhaps with a little less construction.

Whatever the case, our PEFA returned this spring for another shot at Wonder Under The Causeway, so the NJ DOT, the NJ ENSP, and the CWFNJ also returned to help them through it.

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Kathy Clark & Ben Wurst suit up for baby danger.

It appeared the adorable Falcons might actually have been successful again this year, but unfortunately, a little too late. Fledge dates (the official day baby PEFA are ready to spread their wings and fly from the bridge for the first time) and the bridge construction schedule were on a head-on collision. Work was going on almost directly above the nest which is not only a risk to the babies, but also to the adults who have to fly in out of the area all day long to murder pigeons and feed their little ones. It is also a risk to the construction as the adults become violently defensive because… well, they have babies!

Losing a baby Falcon hurts real bad, but losing a single adult is like losing thirty baby Falcons because they will probably make that many over the course of their lifetime.

So it was time to call in the big guns. It was rescue time for Kathy Clark & Ben Wurst.

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Rescue Time.
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Confusion sets in as Ben enters the Eyrie (PEFA nest)

Rule #1 of dealing with wild animals is: don’t talk about dealing with wild animals. Since we already broke that rule, let’s check Rule #2: expect the unexpected. Even though the whole team knew that rule, I don’t think anyone was expecting what they found up there. Not only were there no babies, there were three unhatched eggs.  It was long past the expected hatch date for the pair. Perhaps the dates were off. More likely, the eggs were duds. Whatever the case, the eggs were removed for the safety of everyone: Mom, Dad, babies, the NJ DOT crews, and us.

But that’s only the first whoop-house surprise. Here is where the story gets good.

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Momma is Home! And she’s one of us.

While waiting for Ben to retrieve the eggs, I took several pictures of the adult birds, trying to get a clear picture of their band combos. Our resident female & alleged crab connoisseur Billie had been seen at the bridge earlier in the spring so everyone was expecting she was the current female.

But after almost going blind trying to read the tiny band combos in my blurry and dark photos, I finally got them transcribed and quickly realized something was wrong. The female was not Billie. She was and unknown-to-me “82/AN.” I dutifully reported it to Kathy Clark, and asked if she knew this bird.

Wait… what? Are you serious? Jim, you’ve reported this band combo to us 57.5 times over three years. You’ve called this bird “one of our own.” You said she was “The Queen of Surf City.” You said “She was born of Flowerpot.” You performed an amateur autopsy on her little brother, and kept him in your freezer when he died after hitting a telephone pole in Beach Haven.

You absurdly claimed she wanted to vote for Donald Trump!!!11!! JIM 82/AN IS JO DURT!!!111!!!

~ Kathy Clark

And so she is.

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Jo Durt arrives on LBI, 2014. From the 2014 Reading, Jo Durt & The Sunset Stoop
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Jo Durt is and has been the Surf City PEFA for three years. She owns the Surf City Water Tower. From the 2016 Reading, Spring Flowers 

And she is, allegedly, a Trump supporter (which was very surprising)

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Jo Durt, silently judging you. From the 2016 Reading, Durt For Trump

While we always knew she loved LBI, this makes it absolutely official. Now, Jo Durt, a woman grown, has chosen to raise her family here. If that don’t make you a local, I don’t know what will. She probably killed (like literally, she probably killed Billie) to nest on the Island. It is astounding to consider. We might look up at the Surf City Water Tower and just see some random bird. But no. She is Jo Durt. She is one of us. She has been here with us for years. She enjoys the Island’s splendor and bounty, and she shares in its hardships and sorrows. This is true of so many of our animals. It is utterly amazing. I want to go on and on about this, but I can’t because there is more.

Even that is not the really, really, really good part of this story.

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Ben Wurst: Man With A Plan

While all this is going on, the NJ DOT, NJ ENSP, and the CWFNJ were quietly yet furiously working on a plan to make these Falcons an actual home. A Safe, permanent home on the Island. And so it is a great pleasure to announce that Ben Wurst & Kathy Clark, along the with NJ DOT, have finalized a plan to build LBI’s first Peregrine Falcon Tower on Cedar Bonnet Island, just off the Causeway. A safe, protected, Falcon Love Shack, for all of us to enjoy. And calling it a “shack” is completely appropriate. Why? Because it is essentially going to be erected on the site of the old “Shack”: that legendary LBI landmark which brought us so much joy as we crossed the Causeway from its first appearance in 1920 until its final demise during Hurricane Sandy.

More amazing still, guess who salvaged the wood from the destroyed Shack shortly after Sandy? Hopefully you guessed Ben Wurst because that is the correct answer. You can read all about the history of the Shack, and Ben’s reclamation of the wood on his personal site Reclaimed LLC.

You can be sure Ben will be adding a little bit of the original Shack’s wood into the new Peregrine Love Shack, which is basically its resurrection.

I mean, come on… how crazy is this?

In summary: The Causeway’s Shack is about to be resurrected as a new Peregrine Falcon Tower, hand built by Ben Wurst, and even using some wood from the original. This tower will be LBI’s first official home for Peregrine Falcon. And if everything goes well, our very own Surf City PEFA, Jo Durt, will be ownin’ it.

Start thinking of your new Causeway-crossing rituals involving coming over the crest and seeing Jo Durt & family. Like, “Hey kids, better behave in the backseat on the way to LBI… or Jo Durt might murder you!”

In closing, alert Readers might be asking, “What ever happened to Jo Durt’s eggs?” Well, despite the low probability of viability, Kathy Clark never gives up hope.

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Kathy Clark listens to Jo Durt’s eggs for any sign there might be hope.
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And she knows the perfect Foster Mom to see them through if there is any chance….
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Lady Katherine of The Golden Nudges.

Get ready for your 2018 whoop-house Causeway surprise.

And for goodness’ sake, next time you cross the Causeway, Honk If You Love PEFA.