2019 Great Spirit Bluff Wrap-up

Thanks for watching with us at Great Spirit Bluff this season! From Carson’s return through Kira’s death, we watched a lot of highs and lows this year. We cheered Michelle on through a rough incubation season, celebrated new life when hatch began on May 12, and watched the two young falcons become best pals. We mourned when Kira was killed by a Great Horned Owl on June 9, watched Carson abandon the nest box on June 11 following an intense blackfly swarm, and were thrilled to see him again on June 27, just as we were starting to give up hope for his survival.

What did we learn from this season?

The open-backed box and fan are not enough to stop the flies during a bad blackfly year. Starting next year, we will probably treat the sides of the box with Endure or a similar repellent. Falcons stay in the nest for about 40 days and flies tend to emerge about halfway through the season. We think that just one good treatment might keep the flies at bay for long enough to prevent nest abandonment pre-fledge.

Michelle and Newman fed Carson by dropping dead birds down into the underbrush for him to feed on. He ate well, but the remains appear to have attracted raccoons to his location. In one case, a raccoon came face-to-face with Carson, sniffed him, and moved on. In another, Michelle and Newman strafed a raccoon as it climbed a tree not far from Carson. The raccoon left very quickly! Our takeaway? While raccoons sometimes eat nestlings and eggs, parents and older nestlings can deter them: especially if the raccoon is propelled by curiosity or approaches during the daylight hours.

Since we’re not seeing much of our falcons at the nest box, we’ve decided to shut the Great Spirit Bluff nest box cam stream down at the end of this week. While we make some improvements to our system, you can enjoy the highlights! You can catch glimpses of Michelle, Newman, and Carson on the GSB Cliff Cam until they begin their migration south. If you’d like to see what the area looks like from the river, be sure to check out our Mississippi Flyway cam at https://www.raptorresource.org/…/upper-mississippi-onalask…/. We’re already starting to see some staging as birds begin to gather and feed up for fall migration. It’s a great place to watch pelicans, gulls, terns, cranes, herons, bald eagles, sunrises, sunsets, and insect activity!

Thank You!

We want to give a special shout-out to our amazing camera operators and video makers for finding and sharing the amazing details of life at Great Spirit Bluff. Thank you so much for watching, learning, and caring with us this year!