Remembering Bob Anderson

Bob Anderson on rope at GSB

Bob Anderson on
rope at GSB

Bob Anderson passed away on July 27, 2015. While numerous tributes were written to celebrate and honor him, we wanted to publish the one we submitted to the North American Falconers Association to remember and share his legacy. You can also read this wonderful story written by Orlan Love, an outdoor writer and friend of Bob’s.

Bob Anderson lived and breathed falconry. From the first bird he trapped – a red-tailed hawk, in 1960 – to the last falcon he owned, he was a passionate advocate for birds of prey, falconry, and falconers. Bob was one of the founding members of the Minnesota Falconer’s Association. He instigated and organized the first of many Minnesota Falconers Association game dinners and served the falconry community as the Central Region Director of the North American Falconers Association. Every time he talked about the recovery of the peregrine falcon, he made sure his audience knew that falconers and falconry techniques were an essential part of the species’ return. He had so much knowledge and experience to share, although that never got in the way of a good prank or a funny story. Bob was full of great stories and, like all of his family and friends, we will miss his stories and the camaraderie we shared.

Although many people knew Bob through the Decorah bald eagles, his work with peregrine falcons was closest to his heart. Bob was the first person in Minnesota to breed Peregrine falcons and hybrids. In 1987 MF-1, a falcon Bob produced for the Minnesota Falconers Association, became the first to survive and breed in central North America after an absence of twenty-five years. How influential was MF-1? According to our database, she currently has 512 descendants in the United States and Canada. Only a handful of peregrine falcons come close to matching her legacy.

One of MF-1’s daughters was very special to Bob. In 1990, peregrine falcon Mae took up residency in a nest box that Bob had installed at Xcel Energy’s Allen S. King plant in Oak Park Heights, MN. Mae launched our utility peregrine program and Bob often described her as being like a granddaughter. Electric utilities were key to the peregrine’s recovery in the Midwestern United States and Bob loved to talk about the unique marriage between industry and conservation that helped bring his beloved duck hawk back from the brink. Over the years he became great friends with many people from Xcel Energy, Dairyland Power, Minnesota Power, Great River Energy, and Alliant Energy. People always responded to Bob’s enthusiasm and passion.

In the mid-1990s, Bob began wondering why peregrine falcons weren’t crossing over to cliffs. He decided that nestsite imprinting must be playing a role. Never one to sit on his hands, Bob sold his farm in Hugo, MN, and moved down to Bluffton, IA, where he started a program aimed at imprinting birds to cliffs. After a test hack of four birds in 1997 went well, he released eighteen birds at Effigy Mounds National Monument in 1998 and 1999. This involved a 100-mile or so round trip every day for months, followed by a walk up a muddy track infested by mosquitoes. But the success of the hacks and the delight of seeing peregrines wheeling above the Mississippi made everything worth it.

In 2000, Bob’s gamble paid off when one of his falcons adopted Queen’s Bluff in SE Minnesota. The same year, falcons also nested on the cliff at Alliant Energy’s plant in Lansing, Iowa and at John Latsch State Park north of Winona, Minnesota. To the end of his life, Bob knew that his cliff-released falcons had attracted urban falcons and started the long awaited crossover. Peregrines attract peregrines, and all of his cliff released birds that survived to adulthood returned to nest on cliffs.

Of course, Bob loved to share his birds. He launched his first bird cam, possibly the first internet-based bird cam, in 1998 at Xcel Energy’s Allen S. King plant. Viewers could watch Mae and her mate care for their young via photos that were uploaded to a website every minute or two. People loved it and ‘Mae’s Internest’ made Xcel Energy’s corporate website the world’s busiest for the first quarter of 1998. Bob went on to establish several more birdcams, including the Fort St. Vrain eagle cam, which was built with the help of our late board president Rob MacIntyre. Bob also enjoyed working with Neil Rettig. He, Neil, Rob, and Dave Kester had a blast filming Raptor Force, which can be watched here: https://youtu.be/4Wk–fJbV1I

In 2006 and 2007, Bob and Neil filmed a bald eagle nest in Decorah, Iowa, for the movie American Bald Eagle. “Wouldn’t it be fun to put this online?” Bob asked when they were done. In 2009, we uploaded still pictures to a website. In 2010, we streamed via Luther College and Xcel Energy. And in 2011, we went to Ustream and the world fell in love with the Decorah Eagles.

Bob was a great friend to people and birds of prey, an enthusiastic climber, a wonderful fly fisherman (he spent many hours fishing with his friend Johnny Clarine), a beer connoisseur, an avid reader, a thoughtful and thorough researcher, a great writer, a huge crossword puzzle fan, an exceptional cook, and someone who lived life to the fullest. All of us who knew Bob have at least one “Bob” story – honestly, most of us have a lot of them! We will think of our friend every time we see a falcon flying from a Mississippi cliff or hear falconers or fisherman sharing their stories. Bob, you are missed by people around the world. Thank you for your dedication, passion, and inspiration.

Bob is survived by his fiancée, Mary Bradley (Justin, Julie and Layla); one son, Jeremy Anderson of Circle Pines, MN; his siblings: Richard Anderson of Hurley, WI, Kenneth Anderson of White Bear Lake, MN, Judy (Jerry) Schoeller of White Bear Lake, MN, Joyce (Chuck) Heille of Circle Pines, MN, JoAnn Anderson of Shoreview, MN and Greg (Barb) Anderson of Forest Lake, MN; many nieces and nephews, extended family, devoted colleagues and beloved friends. Bob is preceded in death by his parents, sisters Pat Olson, Caryl Holmes and Marlys (Sue) Derr, and his dear friend Rob McIntyre.

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