It has been closed since 1980, but don’t tell a pair of peregrine falcons.
As far as the endangered raptors are concerned, the upper parts of Vale’s Iron Ore Recovery Plant off Fielding Road in Copper Cliff make for a perfect nesting area where they won’t be disturbed.
In fact, the pair — either descendants of young peregrines brought from Alberta to Greater Sudbury back in the early 1990s during Project Peregrine Sudbury or original birds released here — have been making the long-closed building their summer home for four years.
“I would expect so,” said Allison Merla, senior environmental analyst at Vale’s Greater Sudbury operations. “Peregrines will return to the same nesting area year after year.” While the pair’s nest was visible in previous years, it appears this year the nest is situated inside the structure.
“In past years, they have nested near awnings or window ledges,” said Merla. “This year, we can’t see the nesting site … This year, we don’t know. We haven’t been able to locate a nest. In 2008, there were three young. In 2009, there were three young. In 2010, we don’t know.”
The reason that the birds’ nesting site is not visible, said Merla, is likely due to the fact that it is inside the building.
“They have been seen in the area,” she said.
To try to encourage the birds to relocate out of the building, nesting boxes have been set up near the base of the nearby smokestack.
So far, the falcons have ignored it.
The presence of the nesting falcons has interrupted Vale’s plans to dismantle the Iron Ore Recovery Plant due to the birds’ status as an endangered species.
“We have been working with the Ministry of Natural Resources,” said Merla. “The rules are clear with protecting endangered species. We’re looking at coming up with a plan that would consider both the birds and health and safety.
“We would take it down in stages when the times of year when the peregrines are absent, such as the winter.”
Merla said she is not surprised that peregrines have taken to using the long-dormant building, since skyscraper ledges are often used as nesting sites in large North American cities.
“It’s not typical to their nesting habits,” she said. “They tend to like rock cliff faces.”
Merla said there could be as many as six peregrine falcon pairs living in the Greater Sudbury area.
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