Thank you so much for joining us on Giving Tuesday and for donating to our Giving Tuesday fundraiser, and another thanks to our moderators and camera operators for making the day special with chats and wonderful views! We’ve got a recap and some links from our 1:00pm talk/recap/chat session. First of all – the talk itself! Thanks to Tulsa for recording it:
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We started our Giving Tuesday chat by recapping the year in Decorah, which included:
- The N1 rebuild in the fall of 2021. We built a framework, gathered branches at the Decorah Yard Waste site, gathered more material from the base of the N2B tree, and hauled it all up to construct a nest! Each nest is a little different, but this video shows how we rebuilt N1: https://youtu.be/b7KGQ_cTT6U.
- We rebuilt N1 to entice Mom and DM2, but a new pair of eagles adopted it! Here’s one blog we wrote about it: https://www.raptorresource.org/2022/04/13/as-the-nest-turns-decorah/.
- While we were trying to figure out the cottonwood cast of characters, Canada geese decided to nest in N2B! Watchers were worried about the eagles 500 feet upstream, enchanted by Mama Goose’s serene beauty and lovely white eyelids, and fascinated with the big leap. Five goslings hatched, four goslings survived the 70-foot plunge, and we saw three goslings swimming with Mama and Papa the following day! Relive the N2B goose takeover with these blogs, learn about altricial (bald eagle) versus precocial (Canada goose) behavior here, and watch the leap of faith below.
Decorah Eagles Camera Work
In the fall of 2022 we added a new camera in a tree near N1, replaced the camera on top of the hatchery pavilion, and cleaned and trimmed at N2B. We agonized over whether or not to replace cameras at N1 and finally decided against going into the nest at all: no camera replacements, tree trimming, or even camera cleaning. We believe we made the right decision and watchers are loving the new cameras.
It was a wonderful year at Decorah North! DNF laid two eggs, both hatched, and DN15 and DN16 fledged flawlessly! DN16 gave Dads a treat by fledging on June 19 – Father’s Day! They were awfully cute as little bobbleheads, but I most enjoyed watching them pal around after fledge. Visit the Decorah North Eagle 2022 playlist on YouTube to relieve the year in video!
- We talked about eagle acoustics and sex identification. We use a number of observations to sex falcons, including tarsus width, relative middle toe length, overall size between siblings that are the same age, and pitch. Smaller males usually have higher-pitched voices than their larger sisters. Could the same process be applied to eagles? We captured some audio of DN15 and DN16 vocalizing side by side, and ran it through an acoustical analyzer. DN16 was larger overall, had a longer, deeper beak, and fledged much later than her siblings, which indicated she was most likely female. Would she also have a lower pitch? She did! We need more data, but this seems like a very promising start to our research – and may give us a new way to sex eagles without having them in hand. This study happened in 2021, but Amy brought up the rich vocabulary of wild versus captive eagles, which compared Mom and DM2’s vocalizations with those of captive eagles.
- Everybody loves the North nest neighbors! Some favorites: moo-rades, squirrels, hummingbirds, white-tailed deer, pileated woodpeckers, northern cardinals, downy woodpeckers, chipmunks, an American kestrel, and red-bellied woodpeckers. Not a favorite – at least for DN16 – red-winged blackbirds!
Decorah North Eagles Camera Work
- We replaced one of the nest tree cameras, cleaned the other nest tree camera, and added a new camera in a tree to the south of the nest. This last was quite an adventure: the tree was half dead and the limbs wiggled like jelly as Kike climbed it. Amy provided a back-up belay from the ground…just in case things went south with the tree or rope placement!
Mississippi River Flyway
While much of the US was watching the Superbowl, we were riveted by superb snowy owls! Snowy owls breed up above the arctic circle but sometimes irrupt south in great numbers. Fortunately, Karla Bloem, founder and director of the International Owl Center, was there to help us learn about them!
Other notable 2022 highlights included short-eared owls, a white-faced ibis, a black-necked stilt, and a family of sandhill cranes. Black-necked stilts have been seen in the area, but they aren’t common and don’t breed or migrate through very often. It was probably blown in from the west, but I find it intriguing that it belongs to the same family as American Avocet (Recurvirostridae). We are seeing American Avocets in increasing numbers during the spring (cam op Spish reported six of them in breeding plumage on April 25) and I can’t help but wonder if we’ll see more Black-necked Stilts, too. The two species can breed and produce fertile young.
Mississippi Flyway Camera Work
We installed a new pole with the help of Shafer’s Marine Services and the Brice Prairie Conservation Association and added a solar panel and powerful 4K camera. Extensive flooding in 2019 and 2020 changed the river and pushed birds further away from cam island. We hope to get a little closer with our new camera.
Golden Eagle Tracking Program
Learn about Golden Eagles, read John’s account of Golden Eagle trapping, or follow our Golden Eagle maps! We’ve already learned a lot from our research and it has been fascinating to compare them to our Bald Eagles!