Photos: End of a nuclear era

Two peregrine falcons fly around the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant, in Vernon.

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RUTLAND — Migratory birds are return to Vermont this time of year to nest and raise their young. Peregrine falcons have already returned to their nesting cliffs and can be seen throughout the state. To protect nesting peregrine falcons on the Green Mountain National Forest, Forest Service officials have once again closed access at two prominent cliff sites on the Forest’s Rochester and Middlebury Ranger Districts.

The Rattlesnake Cliff Area (Salisbury) and the Mount Horrid / Great Cliff Area (Rochester) are closed until August 1. The closure, which includes the trails and areas leading to and accessing these cliffs, is intended to prevent disturbance to critical falcon nesting habitat. Peregrine falcon populations suffered declines due to the use of DDT in the 1940s but have rebounded since their reintroduction in the 1980s. Even though peregrines are now considered a recovered species in Vermont, officials say it is critical to minimize human disturbance to nest sites so that the species’ recovery continues. Across Vermont, 2020 was a successful year for peregrines; 48 nesting pairs produced 77 young that fledged from their cliff nests.

Information regarding the specific locations for the closure areas is available on the Forest Service website. Disturbance of peregrine falcons and/or these nesting grounds is a violation of federal law and may result in a fine up to $5,000 and 6 months in jail. Report any harassment of nesting peregrine falcons to 1-800-75ALERT. The Forest Service works with Audubon Vermont, the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other nonprofit organizations to protect peregrine falcons.