2023 Decorah Eagles Recap, Episode 1: A New Beginning

We are turning our Decorah Eagle and Decorah North Eagle cameras off on Wednesday, August 16th, so we’re celebrating the 2023 season by recapping events at the sites we watch. Please join us to help say ‘goodbye!’ from 3 to 5pm on our Decorah chat: https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/decorah-eagles/.

August 15, 2023: DH2 on the Y
August 15, 2023: DH2 on the Y

What a year for the Decorah Eagles nest! To tell the 2023 Decorah Eagles story, we need to back up to the fall of 2021, when we built a starter nest at the old N1 site to entice Mom and DM2 back to the hatchery area. From October of 2021 through March of 2022, we periodically saw them on and around the new nest, although they didn’t appear to be making preparations to move in. After Mom laid egg #1 in the Walmart nest between March 20 and March 22, 2022, we knew they weren’t moving back…and we knew that the eagle pairs we saw after March 22 weren’t Mom and DM2, however much we would like to have seen them nest there.

Mom and DM2, or HD and HM?

When did HD and HM show up?  A review of March snapshots taken by our camera operators shows some eagles that look like Mom and DM2, and others that don’t. A snapshot from March 17 shows an adult eagle that still appears to have some dark tailfeathers, and another snapshot from March 22 identifies an unknown female eagle that doesn’t look like Mom. On March 30th, our camera operators captured a pair of eagles on the Y-Branch. While HD and HM might have been present for as long as a month, this was the first official portrait of the eagles we would come to know as HD and HM, and the first time we saw both of them perched this close to N1.

March 31, 2022: A nice look at the new eagle couple.
March 30, 2022: A nice look at the new eagle couple

It quickly became clear that Mom and DM2 had truly left the hatchery territory. The newcomers (who John referred to as ‘Hatchery Dude‘ and ‘Hatchery Miss‘) set up house with no interference from the original owners. We enjoyed HD and HM’s sticky shenanigans all summer long and were thrilled to have eagles back at N1, even if they weren’t Mom and DM2!

Will they or won’t they?

As 2022 became 2023, we began to wonder whether the two would ever get around to copulation. They both seemed interested, but couldn’t quite get the hang of it. How does this work? Where does my tail go? We watched any number of earnest but failed attempts until the morning of February 8, when the two finally got their groove on! Whooohooo! My family could stop listening to me obsess about eagle copulation and we’d moved another step closer to eggs. Yes, it’s anthropomorphic, but I swear that the two were feeling a little afterglow in the aftermath of their first successful copulation!

We have eggs!

Eleven years after Mom and Dad left N1, five years after Dad disappeared and Mom accepted DM2 as her mate, and three years after Mom and DM2 left the hatchery territory, we finally had eggs in N1. Hatchery Miss became Hatchery Mom when she laid her first egg at 3:43 PM on Saturday, February 25 of 2023. She followed up with one more egg at 4:38 PM CT on Tuesday, February 28. The first part of our long wait was over, but the second part – pacing the delivery room floor – had just begun. We’ll continue our 2023 recap tomorrow with episode two: return of the eaglet!

We’re getting asked why we shut the cameras off before DH2 leaves. As long time watchers will remember, maintenance season used to be a little shorter. While our new camera systems are much better than they used to be, they are also much more complicated and we have more sites, so everything takes more testing, planning, and installation time than it used to. We’ll see what we can do to shorten things up next year. Thank you so much for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring in 2023. See you tomorrow!