Finding Bald Eagle D36!

RRP Director John Howe went looking for D36 on July 17th and found him! Although we know where D36 has been, we haven’t seen him since we shut the cameras off in late August of 2020. He looks great and we’re so happy that John found him! D36 is a two-year old eagle who hatched at N2B in Decorah in 2020. He is the offspring of Mom and DM2.

I decided to head out Sunday morning to attempt locating D36 after a very enjoyable After The Fledge weekend. I had an extra 45 minutes before meeting at the La Crosse Queen for our afternoon river cruise. I’d been out four times now in the past 2 years trying to get a lock on him, but each time he eluded attempts to connect in the same square mile! I hit the road and headed towards his last known location, courtesy of Brett.

I had a feeling that this trip was special and I had a good chance to come face-to-face with D36 again, although I’ve had that feeling before and had come up empty handed. It was a beautiful sunny day and I could not have asked for better conditions. I stopped a good distance away from his reported roost spot the night before and decided to pull out the antenna and receiver for a quick check. It is always possible that our reported eagle locations are “old” and not the most recent. These young eagles just love to move around, it seems! I connected the equipment and made a radial 360 degree pass with no luck. Where is that familiar but elusive ping that I was looking for? I moved another couple miles closer to the destination point and tried again. This time half-way through the pass with the antenna, I heard a faint beep! Could it be, I thought? One more spot check in that direction and I could feel my heart starting to race. Game on!!

It appeared that I was heading directly for his last known location, so I split the difference and stopped for another check. This time the signal was much more clear and very strong! I was tempted to stop and call Brett to share the good news, but I held back and proceeded to hop in the car and move closer. When I stopped, I knew that he was perched in one of several pockets of hardwoods sprinkled along the south of the highway and not too far from a farm. I pulled out the Yagi antenna and spun around slowly. The signal was strong and did not give me any variation in a 360 degree orientation. Why? I pondered a bit and realized that I was close enough that the signal was constant in all directions. I was close! I pulled out my binoculars and started scanning the trees in anticipation. After a couple minutes, I heard some branches rustle and swung over in that direction to catch an eagle in flight. I got it in focus and YES! There was the backpack and small antenna trailing his wing beats!! The wait was over and contact was made!

I followed him for a bit and then fumbled through my pockets to grab my phone. He was close enough for me to get him on the screen and follow him for a minute or two. I was not able to get a good picture of him with his backpack, by the image of him passing by was forever locked in my eyes and memory. Welcome home D36!

I hit the road with a BIG smile on my face and the feeling that I had just experienced the thrill of a chance encounter with a long-lost friend. Fly high, D36 – and thanks for the postcard!