October 14: What’s up in Decorah? Nestflix and Odds and Ends!

Where are the Decorah Eagles? We started streaming again on October 5th and since then we’ve seen Mom and DM2 maybe a handful of times: DM2 in the nest once and Mom not at all. Is everything alright? Are they going to come back to N2B? Since we’ve been seeing them around the territory, we have no reason to believe that their nesting plans have changed. In 2019, Mom and DM2 didn’t show up in the nest until the evening of October 14, when they flew into the nest at nightfall before flying up and perching together on the Skywalk. Keep your talons crossed to see them perched there soon!

While we watch and wait in Decorah, DNF and Mr. North are hanging out on their territory and beginning to make some tentative nestorations on the North nest. I especially enjoyed her splishy-splashy bath video on October 12! The Flyway sky and Mississippi River are filled with migrating birds, including Sandhill Cranes and a juvenile peregrine falcon. It’s a wonderful time to watch migratory birds!

Decorah North
October 13, 2020: Mr. North at the North nest

October 13, 2020: Mr. North on the babysitting branch at the North nest

October 13, 2020: Early morninghttps://youtu.be/oVMNgdGddaA. The video opens with Mr. North in the nest under IR light. He checks out the nest and fiddles with some materials. He walks up the babysitting branch in the second minute and perches for a while, watching and listening as the birds around him wake up. He flies back down to the nest in the 7th minute – watch for the cool take off at 7:45 – and begins moving a stick at around 10:40. We get color and a really lovely sunrise at 12:46.

October 12, 2020: DNF is backhttps://youtu.be/xzJjSZ24yrA. Lovely DNF perches in a tree, visits the stream, and (at 19:45) begins bathing! The water here is chilly, but very clean and refreshing – just the thing for getting your feathers into top condition! She takes four short splishy-splashy dips before hopping up on the rootball to dry her feathers.

Mississippi Flyway
October 13, 2020: Sandhill Cranes on the Flyway

October 13, 2020: Sandhill Cranes on the Flyway

October 11, 2020: Young peregrine falcon visithttps://youtu.be/Ut2WyJ6uUdI. A beautiful juvenile peregrine falcon perches on the snag. Note how dark it is! While peregrine falcon juveniles are generally heavily streaked and brown, they can be darker or lighter, especially when it comes to the head and malar stripe. Note that this falcon is unbanded. While most of us banding in the midwest did at least some work this spring, our activities were curtailed by coronavirus restrictions. I suspect the next few years – and especially as peregrines reach adulthood and begin taking territories and mates – will show us a lot of unbanded alumni from the class of 2020.

October 11, 2020: Sandhill morning dancehttps://youtu.be/636Pw86mj08. This is beautiful! Sandhill cranes dance and jump on the sandbars and in the shallows. Their low bows are classified as antagonistic by Birds of the World. However, I think antagonistic is too simple a word to describe the complex social interactions of cranes. They are testing one another, establishing relationships, and setting personal and family boundaries as they interact on their way to their wintering grounds.

Dancing has long captivated human observers. Nerissa Russell and Kevin McGowan of Cornell University believe that Neolithic peoples imitated the dances of cranes as part of marriage rituals in the village of Çatalhöyük in Turkey at about 6500 BC: https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2004/09/what-makes-humans-do-crane-dance.

October 10, 2020: Traffic in the skyhttps://youtu.be/NwWQnfBulFU. The great clans of the sky are gathering and the air is filled with migrating geese and other waterfowl. I checked birdcast’s radar map for October 10th. The winds were out of the northeast, creating a fantastic night for migrating birds! https://birdcast.info/migration-tools/live-migration-maps/. What an amazing world we live in!

Odds and Ends

Birds give food to less fortunate conspecifics: https://phys.org/news/2020-10-birds-food-fortunate-conspecifics.html. Okay, we don’t know that eagles do this when they are gathered in large social groups. We’ve seen them squabble and steal, but I don’t remember seeing food gifting outside of mates and young – although adult eagles on the Flyway sometimes surrender food when hungry juvies and subadults move in! I look forward to learning and reading more.

Speaking of reading, I’m reading an amazing book called ‘Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel“. Looking for a book for a special person as the holidays approach? I highly recommend it!

Have you heard about SnotBot? I learned about it while searching for a lovely paragraph from Beyond Words that describes an interaction between an elephant and a blue whale. SnotBot® is a modified non-invasive consumer drone which flies through the blow of a whale and collects exhaled “snot” on petri dishes. This blow contains a treasure trove of valuable biological information: DNA, stress and pregnancy hormones, microbiomes and potentially many other biological compounds/indicators of the animal’s health and ecology: https://whale.org/snotbot/. This is very cool and awesomely gross!

Communication between whales and elephants? No place for a mere man: https://whale.org/no-place-mere-man-roger-payne/. I don’t know whether her research was able to move forward during a global pandemic, but researcher Tanja Boehme is exploring the subject: https://medium.com/elp-rumbles/elephants-whales-and-animal-connections-a-researchers-perspective-bfa27982a7eb.