Peregrine Falcons, Port of Olympia Cranes Find New Homes

By Rolf Boone, March 12, 2014, The Olympian

The peregrine falcons that used to nest on a Port of Olympia marine terminal crane and the cranes themselves have new homes. The Capitol Center Building, which occupies a spot on the isthmus between Budd Inlet and Capitol Lake, is the new destination for the falcons, while the cranes are headed to Canada.


The nesting box was moved to the top of the building Tuesday, while the cranes are set to be shipped out the first week of April.


“It is nice and high, it has a good view, and it has no public access,” said Glenn Phillips, a former state Department of Fish and Wildlife worker and a longtime falconer, about the building.


Phillips, 70, of Olympia has worked with the falcons over the years when they nested on the port crane, including attaching identification bands to falcon chicks.


Phillips recommended the building, and then he, Capitol Center Building property manager Neil Falkenburg and three port staff, including port spokeswoman, Kathleen White, moved the box. White managed the nesting box relocation project.


Another tall building in downtown Olympia — the Evergreen Plaza building — also was considered, but the preferred destination was the Capitol Center Building because it is closer to the water, she said.


Falcon chicks fledged on man-made structures prefer to nest on man-made structures, Phillips said.


It is up to the falcons to find their new home, Phillips added, but he said he saw a falcon flying Wednesday morning in the direction of the Capitol Center Building.


The falcons are expected to lay their eggs about April 1; they hatch about May 1, then the young falcons take flight about the middle of June, he said.


The falcons had called the marine terminal Star crane home, which is south of the other crane, for about 10 years.


But the nesting box had to be moved because the port decided to get rid of its two outdated cranes and replace them with either a new or used mobile harbor crane.


The port sought bids for the two cranes from potential buyers, but there was no interest, port engineering director Bill Helbig said.


“The cranes are old, outdated, and we can’t get replacement parts for them,” he said.


Instead, the port paid $390,000 — lower than a previous estimate of $500,000 — to Orion Marine Contractors to dismantle and remove the cranes. It’s the same company that recently dredged the port’s marine terminal.


Once dismantled, the cranes will be shipped by barge to a salvage yard in Canada.


The port then will seek bids on either a new or used mobile harbor crane, the kind of crane that sits atop a truck and can be moved around the marine terminal to lift cargo.


A used crane is estimated to cost $2.5 million, while a new crane is about double that amount, finance director Jeff Smith said. The advantage to buying new, though, is that it will include the cost to bring the crane to the port.


He said the port will make an effort to get an all-in deal at the used-crane price.


The port needs a crane because of the types of cargo the port handles, but it’s also a marketing tool to attract new cargoes to the marine terminal.


And sometimes shipboard cranes fail. That happened in August when the Yangtze Pioneer called on the port and then was delayed by mechanical problems, marine terminal director Jim Knight said.


The Star and Paceco cranes were brought to the port in the late 1990s to serve a Russian container business called Sunmar, but that relationship ended when the Russian economy collapsed.

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