Raptor Resource Project: Director’s Message

To download our winter newsletter, follow this link: https://www.raptorresource.org/raptorresource/pdf/2021-winter-newsletter.pdf
Please accept a big thank you for your part in helping the Raptor Resource Project to succeed. Whether you are a raptor fan, teacher, landowner, partner, or volunteer, we could not do what we do without your help and support. You have been here right beside us for the short term…and for the long term. Your involvement, dedication, and care are critical to our mission of conserving raptors and igniting a passion for conservation in people around the world.
Short Term Success

Scott Anton's niece Jenny at Xcel Energy's High Bridge plant in St. Paul, MN.

Banding falcons at Xcel Energy’s High Bridge plant in St. Paul, MNI’m very proud of the success and teamwork of our peregrine falcon monitoring program. Our team banded 80 falcons at 29 sites in 2021, which was a record for us! Each year we scan the bluffs of the Mississippi River for falcon activity and signs of nesting. Falcons typically return to the same nesting site each year, but that is not a given. The discovery of new nesting pairs is very exciting and evidence of the population’s growth. We also love our urban/industrial nesting sites, where it seems like our partners are constantly rising to the challenge of changing sites, changing times, and changing values. For example, Great River Energy built an innovative pole-mounted nest box when the turbine building that housed the existing nest box was torn down. It has produced eight peregrine falcons since 2020 and is being adopted by other companies to help keep the peregrine population strong. Read our 2021 banding report to learn more about what we did this year: https://www.raptorresource/pdf/2021BandingReport.pdf

Long Term Success
Dave Kester at Castle Rock

Dave Kester at Castle Rock

The Raptor Resource Project is especially invested in monitoring the health and productivity of the Midwest peregrine falcon population. Decades of monitoring show that peregrine falcon migration and nesting patterns are shifting along with the climate. Nesting in the Upper Midwest begins earlier than it did several decades ago, and we see impacts on productivity from insect pests that are connected to flooding and warmer weather patterns. Long Term Success: The amazing re-introduction and comeback of the peregrine falcon is a conservation success story that everyone should hear. It is a story of tremendous commitment and cooperation that played out over decades. In short, we now have a healthy and stable population of peregrine falcons thanks to the care and dedication of many. As a result of that success, we are fortunate to be at a point where our primary job is to monitor the health of the population.

Dave Kester, station master at our Decorah hawk banding station, teaches a student intern how to safely handle a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Correct handling of a bird ensures that neither the hawk nor the handler gets hurt!

Dave Kester, station master at our Decorah hawk banding station, teaches a student intern how to safely handle a juvenile Red-tailed Hawk. Correct handling of a bird ensures that neither the hawk nor the handler gets hurt!

Whether it be second graders following the bald eagle lifecycle in the classroom or college science students learning to trap, monitor, and release Midwest raptors, our program is helping to connect the human and animal world. Our falcon monitoring program is an unparalleled opportunity for employees and landowners, along with their friends and families, to participate in the management of the world’s fastest animal. How precious is that? Looking back on the past year, I’m pleased with our raptor education program advances. Students young and old have more opportunities to watch our live cams and fall in love with bald eagles, peregrine falcons, American kestrels, and even turkey vultures!

Eagles, falcons, and kestrels!

2021 has been a year of new up-and-coming eagle stars. At the fish hatchery nest, Mom and DM2 have been off the movie set except for special appearances. I guess we are OK with them taking a break from thirteen years of our 24/7 eagle reality program. I say that reluctantly, but we’ve watched Mom Decorah raise 39 eaglets! We can still see her on American Eagle (Nature); The Eagles of Decorah (IPBS); America the Beautiful (NatGeo); and Eagle Power (BBC/PBS Nova) if that is any consolation. The Decorah North Nest has moved into the prime-time spot, and we have been enjoying watching and learning from them.

April 3, 2021: DN13 left, DN14 right

April 3, 2021: DN13 left, DN14 right

Our first bald eagle nest cam in partnership with Xcel Energy experienced a good year and a year of recovery. Even though we lost an egg and a newly hatched eaglet, our eagle parents, Ma and Pa Jr. Fort Saint Vrain, adopted the rebuilt nest and fledged a healthy young male eagle— FSV44. Little did he know he would be helping the Colorado Parks and Wildlife staff study population trends, habitat use, and impacts of human disturbance on bald eagles along the state’s most densely populated corridor.

I’ll wrap up with our peregrine falcons and kestrels. 2020 was a tough year for both the WI Kestrels and the Great Spirit Bluff Falcons. We lost our female kestrel after she laid five precious eggs, and, at Great Spirit Bluff, we lost two newly banded young to great horned owls. But both nests rebounded remarkably and showed their resilience. In 2021, we got to watch the hustle and bustle of five young kestrels raised and fledged at our nest in Wisconsin. At the bluff, Zooey treated us to never-before-seen footage of a second-year falcon/first time mother laying her first eggs and learning how to care for her young. We are so lucky to have these windows into the raptor world! Here’s to a productive year ahead with more success stories to share!