What’s going on around our sites? Mr. North and DNF are incubating their eggs as we count down to the beginning of hatch in roughly 20 days. The embryonic eagles are a little over halfway through development right now, growing leg scales, tiny talons, and plantar foot pads in the cozy darkness of their shells. We haven’t seen any new eagles in Decorah, although the nest attracted a hungry squirrel this morning, we saw Northern Shoveler ducks in the retention pond, and Mom has been making regular visits to the area during her time off the eggs, perhaps to warn away potential tenants at N2B.
High above the Flyway, Peregrine falcon Newman is playing his very own version of the Bird Bachelor this week, courting and bringing food gifts to eligible female falcons who are winging north past his nest box. Below him, multi-age groups of eagles and sandhill cranes are also making their way north. While Birdcast isn’t showing much nocturnal migration, Brett said that he’s hoping today’s higher southerly winds initiate a steadier, quicker movement north. Keep your eyes on the Flyway skies!
Decorah Eagles North
March 8, 2021: Mr. North on DNN
March 8, 2021: Decorah Eagles North morning – https://youtu.be/h8VwdQ3nxVQ. Look for some very nice closeups of DNF beginning at 12:37! She looks beautiful on her soft golden nest as she preens her feathers, rolls her eggs, and enjoys the bright sunshine.
March 7, 2021: Decorah Eagles North Morning – https://youtu.be/PIPt2E7psxQ. DNF is incubating when Mr. North comes into the nest before dawn. She protests a little but gets before he has a chance to start dressing her in cornstalks! He takes over incubation, fiddling with the nest just a little bit to arrange things to his liking. At 13:50, we get a lovely view of a pink morning sky. DNF comes back in to take over from Mr. North at 30:28, carrying a fresh talon load of soft grasses to replenish the nest. He gets up and she settles into the nest after adjusting some crib rails, shimmying carefully over the eggs to get them placed just right!
March 8, 2021: A squirrel forages at N2B
March 5, 2021: Nice catch! https://youtu.be/BGoznYTK0Wo. A Great Blue Heron spears a fish at the base of the cliffs.
March 4, 2021: More Visitors at Nest N2B! https://youtu.be/4RSAk6F9kDk. the opening of this video is extremely funny and Luceforall does a nice job capturing the highlights of the visiting eagle pair. We haven’t seen this pair since, although Mom has made a few visits to the area during her shifts off the nest: perhaps to discourage interlopers, since we haven’t seen her fishing.
Great Spirit Bluff
March 8, 2021: Falcon Nina at Great Spirit Bluff
We talked about Newman’s busy spring yesterday. If you’d like to catch up on this season of The Bird Bachelor, follow this link: https://www.raptorresource.org/2021/03/08/peregrine-falcons-great-spirit-bluff-lifestyles-of-the-fast-and-furious/.
March 8, 2021: Nina Back again, food gift and courting – https://youtu.be/_ElwgRAIoqA. Perhaps she’s accepted Newman’s rose, errrr food gifts! The last few days have featured a revolving cast of female falcons and Newman has courted all of them. But unlike Amhran or KJ, Nina appears to be sticking around! Go to 7:20 in this video for a great look at falcon courtship! Newman bows Nina into the box and the two lock eyes, chup, and bow to one another. Listen for the difference in pitches – she has a lower pitch and deeper voice as the two signal their interest in one another.
March 7, 2021: Newman brings food for Nina – https://youtu.be/vjX4Zp2PEu4. Who’s this? Another new falcon showed up at GSB today! Nina M/04, a 2019 hatch from the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, accepted Newman’s food gift. If you go to 4:47 in this video, you’ll see that she has a nicely stuffed crop. I also love her cryptic plumage against the limestone. When falcons aren’t wailing and chasing, they can be very hard to find: something you can see very well in this video.
March 5, 2021: Newman and the banded female – https://youtu.be/fdFCtTfgtVU. What’s this? 92/X Amhran, a 2018 hatch from Skidmore bluff banded by John Howe, shows up at Great Spirit Bluff. Newman courts her by bowing and chupping, but isn’t quite able to entice her into the box – although she does accept a food gift him a little later: https://youtu.be/dwzY8wnSUao.
March 4, 2021: Nookie for Newman and Nova – https://youtu.be/7e790gJcFvw. The title of this video made me laugh, but it is an excellent look at aerial falcon copulation! At about 25 seconds, she expresses her interest by leaning forward, tilting her head down, and chupping. He flies in at 29 seconds, expertly landing on her back and lightly balling his feet. Although the copulation looks successful, she appears to bump him off after about 4 seconds: a little brief even by falcon standards!
March 8, 2021: Flyway Follies!
March 8, 2021: Flyway Follies – https://youtu.be/D5FZHty8Qj8. We saw our first large multi-age group of eagles winging their way north today! They perched on the ice, foraged for food, and chased one another. When the video opens, the eagle at left is probably around three, the eagle in the middle is an adult, and the eagle at right is probably around four. Bald eagles are heading back to the northern boreal forests as ice melts and lakes and rivers open up. Some have territories and mates. Others will wander their summering grounds – foraging, flying, and finding other eagles to chase, steal food from, and hang out with. Check out D27 and D1’s summer maps to get a look at how unmated eagles spend their summer vacations: https://www.raptorresource.org/learning-tools/eagle-map/.
Last year, we saw our first large group of Bald eagles on March 5, and our first Sandhill crane on March 8. Bald eagles are among the last birds to leave the north in the fall and the first to return to it in the spring. Look for the Flyway to get busy now that eagles are arriving!