What was that on the Flyway yesterday? It was a beaver! We’ve got a video and more information than you might be looking for – beavers are a lot stranger than I thought. We also have videos from Decorah (be advised: getting up close and personal with lunch is not for the faint of heart or stomach) and a five-way eagle food-fight from Decorah North. We hope you enjoy these videos as much as we did – thanks to our camera operators for finding them, our videomakers for sharing them, and to you for watching, learning, sharing and caring!
Today’s Diction-aeire word: UFO, or unidentified food object! DM2’s lunch was the very definition of the word. I’ve watched the video and looked through snapshots at Explore, and I still can’t figure out what he brought into the nest.
12/16/19: Beaver grooming itself on ice, dives in – https://youtu.be/raFiBzwYNxo.
I wondered why the beaver was sitting upright to groom. It turns out that beavers have cloacas! When grooming, a beaver sits upright with its tail curled under its body and extended in front of it, between its hind legs. This exposes its cloaca, which (among other things) contains its anal oil and castoreum glands. It uses its front feet to retrieve the oily, waterproof secretions, rubbing them all over its body and combing them into its fur with the help of a special grooming claw on its hind paws. Without constant waterproofing, the beaver’s fur would soon become soaking wet and it would be unable to tolerate the frigid winter waters of the Mississippi river. Here’s a link: grooming beaver. I checked Ben Goldfarb’s book ‘Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter‘ just to be completely sure about this whole cloaca thing! I did not know that beavers were monotremes. Mind blown!
If you want to learn more about beavers, follow this link: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/12/animals-beavers-dams-science-rodents/. If you are up for a read, buy Ben Goldfarb’s excellent book “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why they Matter“. If you wonder how beavers smell, Goldfarb describes the scent of gland oil as “Motor oil? Maybe. But the bouquet also contained notes of overripe fruit, pet store interior, dead muskrat, paint, and countless other odors…it wasn’t unpleasant, but it was powerful.” We hope to see beavers here more often! Maybe John could add some smell-o-vision to the Flyway cam for us?
Decorah North Eagles
12/16/19: Eagles gathering at the spit Juveniles, SA, Adults and the Norths – https://youtu.be/lbP7D3dhyw0. This is a long video, so I recommend scrolling through to find the highlights. I especially liked the eagles on the spit (we see this a number of times since something relatively large died out there, but check 5:18 for one example), eagle bathing (30:15), the Norths working on their nest, unconcerned all about the commotion, a close-up of the eagles on the spit at 52:06, one of the eagles mantling at 53:26 (it looks huge!), and a five-eagle foodfight at 1:39:41!
12/15/19: Food chase – https://youtu.be/z3FSYQ5cuaw.
From Ginger: “Mr. North brings prey to the nest. He starts vocalizing and we hear vocals from at least one other eagle — sounds like perhaps more than one. Some of the vocals are from DNF, but Mr. is the only eagle that is visible.” Be sure to click ‘More’ below the video to get a list of activity with links. We get great close-ups of DNF at 26:55.
12/17/19: DM2 brings lunch, Mom takes over – https://youtu.be/tKgbbTSkFoE. DM2 flies in with lunch and looks around alertly. At 23 seconds, we see Mom fly in (see if you can spot her at lower left). She has the teakettle on before she comes into the nest, screeing to let DM2 know she wants a little lunch! He beaks at her and mantles over his food, but she is persistent and eventually gets the steal, taking DM2’s lunch right out from under him. As she eats, he moves some soft material. The camera zooms in and we get a nice frontal look at 2:46. The camera freezes but comes back at around 3:17 for some excellent closeups! DM2 leaves and the camera moves in even closer at 7:41. I am truly mystified by this UFO: I don’t see scales, I maybe see a couple of strands of fur, and the shape and size don’t immediately fit into any prey category. It was Benihana-beaked beyond all recognition when DM2 flew it into the nest…although I’m reasonably sure it wasn’t a fish or a squirrel.
12/17/19: A closer look at lunch – https://youtu.be/MI23boToiYA. This look might be a little too close for comfort! Mom has left and DM2 is enjoying lunch. The camera operator zooms way in to try to figure out what he is eating. While it looks like meat/muscle, the brown lumps (which neither of them ate) look uncomfortably like fecal material. If you would prefer to avoid this section of the video, skip to 2:56. DM2 has clamber-hopped up the Skywalk and is busy feaking his beak. Close-ups start at 4:06.
12/14/19: Fishing in the pond – https://youtu.be/BA7iC8geMVA. The video opens with Mom and DM2 sitting in the maple. Mom flies off at 15 seconds and DM2 follows at around 20 seconds. At 24 seconds, we see somebirdy go for a fish in the pond, although we don’t know if they were successful.