We have news and NestFlix from Decorah and the Flyway! DH2’s successful catch of a (dead) fish was the talk of our corner of the internet today, with followers thrilled that the eaglet got a fish and annoyed that it lost it when a dump truck drove by. We also have a beautiful preening video and DH2 fiddling with and pruning leaves and twigs on the Y-Branch. DH2, I’ll send you our trimming list. It would be great if you could do a little more work before you disperse!
The Flyway is getting busy as cranes, egrets, and other birds start gathering on staging grounds ahead of migration. We have some wonderful video of a juvenile crane and an adult pelican. Check that last video out if you’d like to see how they use their pouches/beaks for foraging in the water. Thanks so much to our camera operators and videomakers for finding and preserving such special moments, and to all of you for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring. I hope you enjoy these videos as much as I did!
August 9, 2023: DH2 catches a fish! OK, it was already dead, but carrion is an important source of food, especially for juvenile eagles.
August 9, 2023: DH2 101 outdoor school fishing lesson – https://youtu.be/LC2MTC1gexg. ‘Can DH2 catch its own food now?’ We get asked about fledgling food finding abilities every year. While we tend to think of eagles skillfully swooping down on fish, squirrels, and rabbits, carrion is an important source of food for newly fledged juveniles. In this case, DH2 seems to be utilizing a basic eagle hunting technique – wading in the water – to catch a fish that’s gone belly up!
At about 37 seconds, we see DH2 standing on shore, well back from the hatchery retaining pond. At about 1:24 seconds, it runs toward the pond and plunges in! It grabs a dead fish and walks it over to the bank. The heavy entangled vegetation makes it hard for DH2 to maneuver the fish, but our eaglet finally gets it into the short grass by 3:54. A truck startles it and it flies away at about 4:10, dropping its hard-earned fish. Through the remainder of the video, we see DH2 in various locations around the pond as a P flies in to fish. The video concludes without DH2 regaining its hard-earned fish. Outdoor School’s lessons can be hard ones.
How important is carrion to fledgling eagles? Important enough that Mark Stahlmaster mentions it in Chapter Three of ‘The Bald Eagle’. He says: “The wings of adults are adapted for speed and attacking, whereas young eagles’ wings are adapted for soaring. This disparity…allows young eagles to soar and glide more easily so they can search for carrion.’ Young eagles are longer but lighter than adult eagles, which might make floating and swimming a little easier, too – very useful for wading into ponds, shallow streams, and sandbars to catch fish, living or dead!
August 8, 2023: DH2 enjoying a little ‘me’ time as it skillfully preens its feathers!
August 7, 2023: DH2 preens on the Y, closeups, feather study – https://youtu.be/YO3Nyw8XmRI. A lovely video of DH2 preening and perching on the Y! I especially enjoyed the sequence beginning at 10:52. DH2 has lifted its head and begins to slowly erect its feathers, giving us a nice look at its down undercoat and exquisite feather control. It releases and lifts them a few times before digging to preen its wing pits, giving us a wonderful look at its white-splotched underwings. I also loved the careful preening that starts at around 13:20. A beautiful look at a beautiful bird!
August 6, 2023: DH2 does a little pruning on the Y-Branch – https://youtu.be/fhASl25dJw8. Thanks, DH2! I’ll send you our list of branches we want pruned. It would be great if you could get a few more out of the way before you disperse!
August 9, 2023: An alert DH2 on the Y-Branch
‘Fiddling’ seems to be a default eagle behavior – unsurprising for creatures that use their mouths to explore the world and build North America’s largest nests! We’ve seen them prune favorite sightlines and perching spots, and prepare sticks for collection by whittling and stripping them until they can be broken in flight. I love to see DH2 ‘play house’ and fiddle with leaves and twigs while it perches – much like a person playing with a fidget spinner!
August 6, 2023: A sandhill crane preens itself on the Flyway.
August 6, 2023: żuraw (sandhill crane) – https://youtu.be/VWJd85RqACQ. A spectacular look at one of my favorite birds! Note the crane’s cinnamon/rufous plumage. If this is a juvenile crane, the color is part of its plumage pigmentation. Older cranes often cover their feathers with mud or soil during the breeding season, which gives their basic grey plumage a reddish tinge. We think they do this to camouflage themselves. Researchers have also suggested that it helps protect them from blackflies and other biting insects based on the crane’s success at nesting in areas with large blackfly populations.
August 4, 2023: A pelican forages on the Flyway. The water is clear enough that we could see its beak sweep through the water as it foraged.
August 4, 2023: czapla i pelikan (egret and pelican) – https://youtu.be/QuqwDQI0Kqg. It’s true…we are obsessed with egrets and pelicans! The video opens with an egret foraging in shallow water. At 1:09, the camera operator finds a pelican! Look for wonderful closeups beginning at 1:19, including a couple of great looks at the pelican’s distended pouch! ‘A beautiful bird is the pelican/Its beak holds as much as its belly can!
August 8, 2023: I couldn’t get over this egret’s lovely soft white plumage, black foot, beautiful yellow beak, and the green background surrounding it!
Odds and Ends
My latest podcast obsession is ‘Everybody in the Pool‘, a podcast that discusses climate solutions and looks at climate change through a focus on economics and entrepreneurship. From the podcast’s description: Entrepreneurs are inventing miracles; the business world is shifting; individuals are overhauling their lives; an entirely new economy is being born. If you are interested in climate change and climate solutions, or if you just need a little hope, this is a great podcast! https://open.spotify.com/show/4hXcJV6CQaiPWofMMaI7fh
The World’s Rarest Raptor Hangs On Thanks to an Invasive Species: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/mauritius-kestrels-rarest-raptor. A link from fan Sandy P, this is a really interesting article that underlines some of the dilemmas faced in species recovery. The Mauritius Kestrel greatly benefits from an invasive tree that is harmful to other species on the island. How should land managers respond?