Whatta Year! A Tale of Two Nests

by Sherri Elliott

I learn so much observing each season, but the one thing that was the most exciting was also a pivotal plot point in RRP research by applying the ‘fingerprint’ of iris scans to photograph eye flecks to definitely determine who was who, when they arrived, and the level of socializations displayed during their stay. We saw three different helpers, guardians or potential suitors at DE before Mom accepted DM2 as her mate and pair-bonded. And at DNN, we conclusively established that Mrs North did not return for the season and DNF (Decorah North Female) was now Mr North’s mate.

I journaled daily events at both nests but was particularly focused on evolving courtship and bonding, and level of partnership in providing prey and other parental duties each couple displayed. Oh, I doted on the little ddd-darlings too and documented their development, milestones, and behaviors, and there are at least 10,000+ memories to keep me smiling as I go through all the saved screenshots.

Each nest pair exhibited a different degree of  ‘getting their groove on’ as new partners.

  • At DE, events were often comical as one or the other was interested in mating only to have the other walk away, fly off, or fall off after signaling readiness or asserting intentions.
  • All efforts seen on cam were counted: 13 mating attempts; 15 dominance displays by Mom; 6 copulations; and 1 instance of mating vocals heard off cam.
  • At DNN there was no issue in rendezvous rapport between these lovebirds: 5 mating attempts, 1 dominance display from DNF; and wow … 51 copulations; as well as 5 instances of mating vocals heard off cam.

Both pairs were proficient in providing provisions:

  • DE Prey – 468 meals total and 15 of those included 2 fish at a time, and one delivery of 3 fish by Mom on 5-23-19. The partnership was fairly equal with 235 meals from Mom, and 216 from DM2. Fish was the primary protein (416), with an assortment of squirrel, rabbit, muskrat/mink, possum, ground squirrel, dove and other birds, mystery meat and a field mouse. I’m not counting D32’s “salad days” nibbling on the low hanging cottonwood leaves.
  • DNN Prey – 256 meals total with Mr North providing 179 and DNF brought in 77 meals. Fish was more than half of their diet (143), and they enjoyed the bounty of country living with an assortment of rabbit, squirrel, possum, raccoon, mink, pheasant, duck, coot/grebe, bird, fawn heads and legs, a calf leg, mystery meat, field mice, and placenta … also known as cowghetti. The total count could be higher if our ‘bone collector’s’ calcium consumption was tallied separately, but that would be double-dipping!

Both nests suffered different losses. At DE, one egg was broken early on, and we saw both D32 and D33 fludge/fledge. At DNN, we lost DN10 at barely a day old, and DN9 also had a fludge/fledge. How fortunate we were that all were rescued and taken to SOAR where D33 and DN9 had a soft release into the wild, and D32 continues to make progress toward his eventual release. In addition to all the rehab TLC at SOAR, we also learned sexes and evolving socialization skills with their roomies.

Here’s a couple of special video memories saved in my favorites file for you to bookmark and enjoy. Please be sure to comment on your favorite memories too!

Decorah Eagles

4/3/19 – 9:30 am Mom on the Y branch, spies good grasses, heads down to pasture: https://youtu.be/ycalnBye2OE
4/14/19 – D32 tangled on Mom’s feathers – https://youtu.be/GsZfSnTUMp4
5/7/19 – Mom delivers a triple, DM2 gets mobbed – https://youtu.be/8SEW4FXWTvE

Decorah North Nest

1/5 – Afternoon Bath For The Eagles – https://youtu.be/2qVHh-j3n8g
4/30 – Mr feeds DN9 Pheasant & pulls out an egg (appx 1:15 min mark) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYbtNrIH2z8
5-31 – DN9 swallow duck head – https://youtu.be/jJ9BP_2E_nk