Happy Cottonwood (well, Oak) Graduation!

The season isn’t quite over, but the amount of time that DN15 and DN16 spent in our viewfinder has come to an end. We haven’t seen DN15 since August 9th, or DN16 since August 15th. Our eaglets have graduated to Eagle College and new adventures in the wild blue yonder! We invite everyone to join us for celebratory chats and a fundraiser on our Decorah North and Decorah Eagle pages!

This year marked some firsts, happy and otherwise, for all of us. Canada Geese took over N2B, a new eagle couple adopted our starter nest at N1 and, for the first time in nineteen years, no eaglets were produced at any of the nests on the former hatchery territory. We watched an eagle territory split in two, witnessed the formation of a pair bond at N1, thrilled to the goslings’ leap of faith, and fell in love with DN15 and DN16. Some of my fondest moments were seeing the two of them cuddled together napping, gently nibbling one another, playing with nest materials, practicing their best eagle table manners, or watching the moo-rade below them.

We’ve made a million memories watching every milestone moment…from the first tiny bobblehead bites to the strong, confident flights of experienced juvenile eagles. We saw them morph into eager eaters, skilled seizers and stealers, and expert prey unzippers who could defeather, defur, or filet their prey. Woe to the parent who’s toes got in the way! As a watcher said, our hearts are full of wonderful souvenirs. Twenty-one weeks flew by with the North family to watch!

Through it all, Mr. North and DNF delivered hundreds of pounds of fish, raccoon, fawn parts, cowghetti, muskrat, and so much more. They protected their young from snow, rain, and sun, shading them when it was hot and providing Mombrellas and Poptents¬† through inclement weather. The lessons and food deliveries continued post-fledge as both made sure their young were ready for Eagle College. Lessons learned, DN15 and DN16 departed for Eagle College. I’ll think of them when we see juveniles on the Mississippi River this fall!

Speaking of schooling…we’d like to present you all with a special 2022 Cottonwood Completion Certificate in recognition of your successful fulfillment of the 2022 Decorah Bald Eagle Camera Course in Eagleology. Just download, print, frame, or include it in your eagle scrapbooks.¬† This tradition was started by Sherri Elliott and it continues today. Whether you watched the Decorah North Eagles, Mom and DM2, HD and HM, or the Canada geese, whether you watched enthusiastically or peeked between your fingers, whether you chatted or perched, whether you commented or not, you earned it!

It’s been a joy to meet the fans and viewers who shared the 2022 season with us. Whether you are a newbie, a seasoned beak geek, or an experienced bird nerd, we hope that you learned something new each day about the ways in which birds are devoted to nurturing and protecting their young. Sweet Eagle Dreams – and thank you for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring!

A thousand thousand thanks to our wonderful moderators, camera operators, and videomakers for everything they do to bring the eagles and other birds into our lives and into our hearts. They work long hours day and night: running cameras, learning about and sharing the eagles, researching every question they are asked, posting images on their Facebook pages, and of course documenting every meal, PS, and play behavior they see. We couldn’t do it without them!

I need to give a shoutout to Sherri Elliott, who wrote for us for years, established the tradition of the Cottonwood Certificate, and provided the basis for today’s thanks in her 2016 goodbye. And a fond goodbye to much-loved moderators TXNinja and Bremer. Perhaps we’ll all meet again in the wild blue.

But before then, we’ll see all of you in early October!