Decorah: N2 and our plans

Fallen N2 and camera

Fallen N2 and camera

As you might know, wind took down N2 in Decorah very early on Saturday, July 18. The limb that held the nest tree was sheared completely off, several trees in the immediate area were toppled, and a few rows of corn in the field near the nest were flattened. The eaglets and mom were quickly accounted for. Dad kept us wondering until Sunday morning, when he was spotted at a favorite perching place on top of the bluff near the hatchery. As sad as the loss of N2 is, it could have been so much worse. There was no loss of eagle or human life, the family wasn’t using the nest, and Mom and Dad are in a period of latency. Once again, a traumatic event for us is simply a part of life for them.

So what’s going to happen next? At this point, we are waiting to see what the eagles do. We expect that Mom and Dad will start building a new nest in the fall, most likely in October. We don’t believe they will abandon their territory, although we don’t know exactly where they will rebuild or whether they will go back to N1. We will be watching closely to see what happens. Will the question of alternate nests finally be answered, at least in this case? Will the eagles rebuild in the woods next to trout creek or choose another spot? When exactly will they start and what will it look like? Thanks to Jim Womeldorf’s work in 2013, we have a great basis for comparison!

N2 from the back, splintered limb

N2 from the back, splintered limb

Having said that, we can’t guarantee a live stream from this location in 2016. Installing and cabling a camera is a huge project, especially if directional boring needs to be done. Once the eagles start working on a nest, we don’t want to risk shifting them again. If we can find another solution – a ground cam, for example – we will, but it is hard to plan when we don’t know what Mom and Dad will do.

Bob has been thinking about another Decorah eagle cam for quite some time. Eagles can nest anywhere, but a camera needs electricity and internet access – two things that are in short supply at many locations! Fortunately, he identified another possible location just this spring. We will be placing cameras there this fall while we wait to see what Mom and Dad do. If we can’t put a camera in N3 this year, we will do it next year. If it is possible to put N3 online via a ground cam, as Jim Womeldorf did in 2013, we will. And if neither of the first two options are possible, we will continue to observe and report on Mom and Dad old-school style.

A lot of people are asking how Mom, Dad, and the eaglets weathered the storm so successfully. Eagles and many other birds sense changes in barometric pressure hours in advance of incoming weather. While they can’t forecast long-term changes in weather (a rough winter, for example), they do sense and respond to relatively immediate weather conditions. The eagle family and other area birds probably sensed the incoming storm and hunkered down in a safe, relatively sheltered area to ride it out. They have long talons with excellent gripping strength (400psi per talon!), and can change their aerodynamic characteristics by changing their shape. So the next time you know rough weather is in the forecast, watch the birds (and bees) and see how they react!

A few links on the subject:
Birds predict weather change and adjust behaviour by reading barometric pressure
http://phys.org/news/2013-11-birds-weather-adjust-behaviour-barometric.html
Can animals predict the weather?
http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/climate-weather/storms/animals-predict-weather2.htm
Natural barometer in birds evolved from ancient fish sense organ: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/natural-barometer-in-birds-evolved-from-ancient-fish-sense-organ