DN15 and DN16 turn 141 and 142 days old today! We last saw DN15 on August 9. While it’s still possible he could return – we’ve seen multiday walkabouts prior to final dispersal – it seems less likely with every day that passes. It feels like the dog days of summer to us, but we’re starting to see pre-migratory flocking and winter preparation: seed-eating flocks of passerine birds (hemp seeds are an excellent source of fat), browsing bucks with lovely velvet antlers, and increasing numbers of shorebirds and waterfowl on the Flyway. We wish DN15, DN16, and all first-time fledgers out there good luck. We hope to see some of them on the Flyway!
Decorah North Eagles
August 15, 2022: DN16 dries her wings on a misty morning in the rolling green hills of NE Iowa.
August 14, 2022: Beautiful big buck – https://youtu.be/QC697TyEHDc. Wow! A big, beautiful buck grazes in a thicket of thorny browse, including multiflora rose, gooseberry, hemp, burdock, and wild grape. We know that the Decorah North eagles bring more fawn parts to the nest than any other pair we watch. Deer are very plentiful out here and we’ll see even more of them as rut draws near, leaves fall, and deer gorge on the high-fat, high-calorie acorns that drop from the abundant oak trees in the valley of the Norths.
August 18, 2022: A fox squirrel at the North nest.
August 13, 2022: Squirrel study – https://youtu.be/SpPOEa8qCGE. A fox squirrel chills out near the North nest! We get wonderful detailed looks at its soft fur, bushy tail, large dark eyes, and rounded ears.
Those large, dark eyes got me curious about how squirrels see. Bald eagles have four color receptors. Humans generally have three. Squirrels have two: green and blue. Curious what the world looks like to a squirrel? Watch this video: https://youtu.be/PemAW0c8t14 or check out this cool artistic project: https://www.carollyne.com/2018/12/what-a-squirrel-sees-dichromatic-colour-vision-of-the-eastern-grey-squirrel/.
August 12, 2022: DN 16 pre-dawn stomping, hopping, stick playing – https://youtu.be/D4xNirQ18lI. Eagle vocals ring out through the sleepy dawn chorus. At 2:12, the camera operator finds DN16, who hop-flaps down into the nest and hides behind the hemp bush. She begins playing with a stick and hopping all around the nest: grabbing and moving a larger stick beginning at 4:10 and generally honing her sticky skills throughout!
Do birds of prey play? Play behavior has been documented in 28 raptor species, including eagles, falcons, hawks, ospreys, and kites. DN16’s play builds muscle and reflexes and teaches her how to capture and carry prey and interact with other eagles, depending on the game! Is play fun for DN16? Her world is a lot different than ours: she can see colors we cannot, sense magnetic lines of force stretching away from her, and watch thermals of warm air rise and spill into the clouds above her. Still, play is an ancient and widespread behavior in the animal kingdom. Eagles don’t think or emote like we do, but they do have inner lives and a sense of self. I have to think it is fun. For more on play, follow this TED link: https://www.ted.com/playlists/383/the_importance_of_play…and in the meantime, get out and play!
August 12, 2022: HD near N1! The bare branch is a favorite perch – it puts him out in the wind and sun, allows for easy landings and takeoffs, and lets him see everything around him.
August 14, 2022: HD close-up on a favorite branch – https://youtu.be/CTnUvO44YPE. A wonderful portrait of handsome HD! And lovely HM isn’t too far away: https://youtu.be/dnaCWuJEFAs!
We might see a little less of HD and HM before cam shutdown on August 20th. Bald eagles don’t tend to spend as much time working on their nests during summer’s dog days: their hormones are at a low ebb and no one wants to lumberjack on sticky, humid days! We’ll do our best to keep everyone posted while our cameras are down for maintenance.
Looking for something to watch while our eagle cams are down? Check out our Mississippi Flyway cam – https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/flyway-cam/. We’re just starting to see pre-migratory flocking and feeding behavior and I am hoping that the Brown Booby might make an appearance on camera! More about that very-far-from home bird here: http://www.windowtowildlife.com/brown-booby-on-the-black-river-in-la-crosse-wisconsin-on-august-11-2022/.
April 15, 2022: As sandhill cranes stalk shallow waters, a bald eagle perches motionlessly on a log and Canada geese forage for stems, shoots, and small tubers.
August 15, 2022: Mississippi River morning – https://youtu.be/kMeaS4pTLwg. As sandhill cranes stalk shallow waters, a bald eagle perches motionlessly on a log and Canada geese forage for stems, shoots, and small tubers. A quiet everyday moment of grace: something that the area’s original inhabitants could have seen 500 years ago, but we couldn’t have seen 50.
Although the Mississippi River has greatly improved from the early 1970s, it is threatened by non-point source pollution, including stormwater and agricultural run off. There are a lot of efforts to tackle the problem at state and local levels. As individuals, we can stop using so much fertilizer, landscape our yards to slow run off, and support the protection and creation of natural buffers to slow erosion. Here are three groups working on the issue in my favorite lakes/pools: https://www.lakepepinlegacyalliance.org/, http://www.lakeonalaska.org/index.html, and http://www.briceprairieconservation.org/.
August 14, 2022: Peregrine falcon – https://youtu.be/CMv4AAhpdgo. Although this bird looks a little brownish, its markings and cere indicate it is a full adult. The Flyway cam is two to three miles from Great Spirit Bluff and the falcon is unbanded, which means it could be Newman or Zooey. We usually see a few falcons on the Flyway cam this time of the year.
Missouri Turkey Vultures
August 8, 2022: This proud juvenile turkey vulture just flew from the windowsill to the doorway entrance
August 8, 2022: Turkey Vulture Pre-Fledge Flight! https://youtu.be/kUjslCKvYYw. The bits have both fledged! This first flight – a ‘branch’ followed by a longer flight out of the barn – took place on August 8, 2022. Young turkey vultures usually spend one to three weeks perching and roosting near their natal nest before they join a nearby communal roost. See the vulture’s gray head? That isn’t just the lighting: juvenile turkey vultures have gray heads with black beak-tips. Its head will be pinkish-red by next spring and its bill will become more ivory-colored as it ages.
Turkey vulture parents do not give their young the sort of extended post-fledging care we see in our bald eagle families, although young might follow them on foraging flights before joining a roost. Young bald eagles have a lot of learning to do after they fledge: while they can eat carrion, they aren’t especially adapted to finding it and they know nothing about hunting and fishing. While turkey vultures might need to compete for a carcass, their food never runs away and can’t fight back, and they are equipped with a keen sense of smell to help them find it. A communal roost will give them plenty of company and all the resources they need to survive.
Odds and Ends
Get the lead out video for anglers! https://www.pbs.org/video/get-lead-out-dowr8c/. A short video from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency about fishing lead free. I converted many years back and thought it was pretty easy to do. Yes, you’ll have to drop the lead-cored line and leaded tackle. But aren’t birds worth it? Go to four minutes if you are looking for information and tackle suggestions.
Paper: Ecological factors affecting hunting behavior during the post-fledging dependence period of raptors – https://www.internationalornithology.org/PROCEEDINGS_Durban/Symposium/S24/S24.3.htm. Just starting reading this. It has a lot to say about raptors and play.
Thanks so much to our amazing camera operators and video makers for their hard work finding and sharing such special moments, and to all of you who are watching, sharing, learning, and especially caring. We hope to see you Saturday at our shutdown celebration! We’ll be shutting off the cameras at 5:00 pm on the 20th and returning in early October.