March 1, 2022: Eagles, Falcons, Owls, and Raccoon

Tonight’s mega-movie roll features eagles, falcons, owls, and a racoon! At the North nest, DNF and Mr. North are deep into incubation, which means we’re getting wonderful looks at their faces, feathers, and incubatory behavior. Zooey and Newman are both in residence at Great Spirit Bluff, along with nesting bald eagles, great horned owls, and a curious raccoon. I loved all these videos, but I especially enjoyed DNF’s nighttime wingslap, a beautiful look at Zooey, the rock-climbing raccoon (free soloing, in the dark? I’m christening it Honnold!), and the two owls. We don’t yet know how things will work out at Great Spirit Bluff this year, but I love the diversity of creatures that seek its rocky reaches and deeply forested valley.
Thanks so much to all of you for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring! We have about 23 days until DNF and Mr. North’s first egg hatches.

Decorah North Eagles
March 1, 2022: DNF at the North Nest

March 1, 2022: DNF at the North Nest

March 1, 2022: Mr. North hears drumming Spring is coming and woodpeckers are drumming, or pecking on resonant objects to create a pattern of sound. Male woodpeckers drum to advertise territory and attract mates, while mated woodpeckers will also use drumming to share information about a food source or call for help. Mr. North goes on alert when he first hears it, but quickly identifies the source and settles back down. Listen for smaller birds – another sign of spring! – in the background.

Woodpeckers will drum on almost any resonant object, including hollow trees, fallen logs or stumps, house siding (they used to love our exposed cedar), utility poles (they especially seem to love metal flashing, which makes quite a racket), fence posts, branches, and rain gutters.

February 28, 2022: Mr. North foot-rolls the eggs I still remember seeing this for the first time at the North nest. It was very, very rare for Mom or Dad to roll the eggs with their feet, but we’ve seen Mr. North, Mrs. North, and DNF do it. We don’t get a great view, but watch for him to ball his feet before he carefully rolls his eggs and tucks them back underneath him.

This is one of those eagle behaviors that makes me go hmmmm, since it seems more prevalent in some nests than others. Given that eagle territories tend to be held by alternate mates – an experienced eagle will most likely bond with an inexperienced eagle at some point – I have to wonder if inexperienced eagles pick up some of these behaviors from their mates. Rolling eggs is instinctive, but perhaps new methods can be learned or existing methods modified, depending on the preferences of any given eagle.

February 27, 2022: DNF wingslaps a mouse Something has DNF awake and alert after dark. She is peering out, not up, and seems to be sharply focused on something close to the nest. Slow the playback speed down at around 39 seconds and you’ll just barely be able to make out a mouse when DNF slaps it. The mouse runs away, but she remains mantled over her eggs and begins vocalizing at 1:13. Mr. North doesn’t answer, but she relaxes quickly and settles back down again.

We admire bald eagle vision but bald eagle hearing is pretty sharp, too. DNF can’t see by IR light, but she accurately strikes at a mouse that is concealed by nest materials and darkness. Fortunately for the mouse, it escapes without injury. Although bald eagles don’t hunt mice, they will happily prey on them given the opportunity. Some of you might remember this video from 2019:

February 27, 2022: DNF close-ups, tongue, papillae A beautiful video of DNF basking in the sun. Her feathers are warm, the temperature is above freezing, and it’s hot enough for her to pant just a little bit. The camera operator gives us an excellent look at her slender pointed pink tongue and papillae (rearward facing barbs that help her swallow food), and beautiful body feathers.

Great Spirit Bluff
February 28, 2022: Zooey

February 28, 2022: Peregrine Falcon Zooey

February 28, 2022: Falcon Bachelor #1 Zooey We confirmed Newman on February 23 and Zooey just yesterday. Will we see a repeat of last year’s falcon bachelor? I’m guessing that Zooey will do her best to keep interlopers away, but the next couple of weeks should tell us!

February 28, 2022: Newman

February 28, 2022: Newman

February 28, 2022: Rock-climbing raccoon Here’s the reason we built and installed a nest box! A raccoon comes in from the left and pokes around for leftovers on the rock ledge diner before downclimbing to the bottom of the bluff. To watch it climb, go to 12:57. Look for heel hooks, mantles, route finding (where does this route go?), nice arete work, good use of the tail for balancing, and careful hand and foot placements. I’m thinking this would be about a 5.2 in daylight, with a rope. But free-soloing an unknown route in the dark? This raccoon is a real daredevil!

As funny and enjoyable as the raccoon is, its skill at climbing shows why raccoons can be a threat to nestling peregrine falcons. They don’t have special adaptations to catch and eat nestlings and nestlings aren’t a high proportion of their diet. But their sensitive noses are good at detecting stashed prey and nestovers, and they’ll eat any nestlings they find along the way. Look closely at around 21:19 and you’ll see two rodents scampering off as the raccoon makes its way down the cliff.

February 27, 2022: Gniazdo sokoła wędrownego – puchacz na klifie ze zdobyczą [peregrine falcon’s nest – an owl on a cliff with prey] The great horned owl eats a little before flying off into the dark, perhaps to deliver dinner to its mate.

February 26, 2022: Owls at GSB

February 26, 2022: Owls at GSB

February 26, 2022: Owl copulation Two Great Horned Owls have joined peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and raccoon at Great Spirit Bluff. We don’t yet know how all this will play out, but the two owls pair-hooted very softly (listen closely!) before the female joined the male for a little night time delight. We haven’t seen her for a couple of days, but we did see him bring dinner to the rock ledge, eat some of it, and fly off into the darkness with the rest of it. She may be on eggs.