- Associated Press - Saturday, May 21, 2016

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (AP) - John Castrale started a recent morning with an assault from two peregrine falcons, neither of them too happy about him climbing 400 feet to their nest and taking their three babies. But all around, it was for a good cause.

Castrale, a retired Indiana Department of Natural Resources nongame bird biologist, was helping to catalog the endangered birds and cap off a two-week education program for third- and fourth-graders at Mount Tabor Elementary School, who got to name the chicks.

“It’s an adrenaline rush,” Castrale said. “These birds aren’t too bad. There was one site where I stopped counting the hits at 40.”

Duke Energy brought students, teachers and parents to the Gallagher Generating Station in New Albany to name and band the peregrine chicks for the second year in a row. One of the state’s 20 nesting pairs live on one of the stacks at the plant.

The birds were classified as endangered, but rebounded to removal of the status in 1999, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service website. Castrale said peregrines have proven they can change with the times.

“You would think this is a wilderness bird, nesting in arctic regions or on cliffs,” Castrale said. “But they’ve taken to nesting in suburban and industrial environments in tall spaces.”

Carlee Smith, a fourth-grader at Mount Tabor Elementary, said she’s had a lot of fun learning about the world’s fastest bird, which can dive at speeds of about 200 miles per hour.

“I thought it was cool that they had been shown in old Greek and Roman paintings,” Smith said. “That and how fast they can go is really cool.”

The chicks - which the class named Zane, Skylar and Christian - were bigger than Smith expected, about the size of a house cat. She said it was fun to see the animals they’d spent so much time learning about.

“It’s cool because you can always look at pictures, but to see them is a whole lot cooler,” Smith said.

Bethany Reavis, a teacher at the school, said showing students what they’re learning about can help strengthen the connection with their subject material.

“To be able to witness science in action is pretty cool, so we hope we get invited back again,” Reavis said. “I feel like they’re able to connect the information pretty well.”

Castrale said he’s been working to help peregrine falcons since 1989. While they’re on the up and up, he said it’s good to keep an appreciation for the animals and teach younger generations about their conservation.

“Kids these days are kind of insulated, so any kind of exposure to you can give them is good,” Castrale said. “Hopefully, you have a budding ornithologist or environmentalist who will be really stimulated by something like this.”

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Source: News and Tribune, https://bit.ly/1WEltgM

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Information from: News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind., https://www.newsandtribune.com


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