Put your feet up and grab a blanket if you’re watching from the Midwest – it’s time for NestFlix! At Decorah North, we get some wonderful looks at both Norths, a mouse house party (don’t they know that eagles sometimes eat mice?), and North nestorations. On the Flyway, Sandhill Cranes surround a Bald Eagle on the Flyway and break my heart with their incredible beauty. Thanks to our awesome camera operators and video makers for finding and sharing such special moments. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Stick Dancing! https://youtu.be/U8HvSF7Rs7M. There are plenty of sticks in the nest, but Mr. North and DNF both want this one. Time for a stick dance!
Stick dance/tango videos are always funny: we look into the nest and see something of ourselves looking back. But nest building is also an important part of eagle courtship! Eagles spend a lot of time procuring and hauling wood and soft materials into the nest. This is an energetically costly activity that requires them to be in good shape: well-fed, skilled at flying, and relatively parasite-free. While different things indicate quality to different species of birds, large nests appear to signify quality to bald eagles. More about that here: https://www.raptorresource.org/2022/12/13/birds-and-nest-building/.
Bald Eagle and Sandhill Cranes: https://youtu.be/Pgrl42NaS10?si=VfXXp-Vb99rZKBBc. What do you call a group of Sandhill Cranes? A Sedge, unless you’re a Bald Eagle. Then you call it a Nope! An adult Bald Eagle is standing in shallow water. When a group (Sedge? Twiggy? Nope?) of Sandhill Cranes surrounds it, the eagle makes its displeasure clear. While the cranes aren’t a physical or competitive threat – SandHill Cranes don’t eat bald eagles or compete for their resources – the eagle clearly doesn’t like being fenced in!
Decorah North Eagles
October 23, 2023: Beautiful look at Mr. North – https://youtu.be/QMLFE1v-g_E?si=8X3n-vF6U5EIAZ1g. Exactly as the title says: A beautiful look at handsome Mr. North.
October 23, 2023: Mice in the House – https://youtu.be/ObdKz1xkPbI?si=0SlKtj-rwbJCHdM2. It’s a mouse house party! At least three mice scurry around the north nest, weaving in, through, and under sticks and grass to search for scraps of food.
Don’t mice (and squirrels, and birds) understand that eagles are dangerous? Presumably they do, but an eagle’s nest is much like a reef: a biodiversity hotspot at a small scale that is important to many other animals. We’ve watched mice, squirrels, and birds glean food, gather bedding and nesting material, flirt, build nests, perch on or near our nests, and take abandoned nests over. Eagles can be dangerous neighbors, but their nest defense offers a safe patch for smaller bird and mammal species… eagles will eat mice, but they don’t hunt for them the way that owls do.
In his excellent book ‘The Bald Eagle’, which was published in 1987, researcher Mark Stalmaster writes that “…most people would never have seen a Bald Eagle in its natural habitat”. Those of us who loves eagles know how thrilled we were when the species returned. But I wonder how their absence impacted the forests they once nested in. Since eagles are nestitects, they are surely forest architects as well: a top predator who’s presence paradoxically increases the richness and diversity of the forest around them. This is Eagle Country.
October 21, 2023: DNF harvests stick, flies to nest – https://youtu.be/3IWAO-p7LAg?si=iRU4kbdUbcxSlL9k. Talk about architecting! DNF is perched in a dead tree across the stream. At 15 seconds she flies out – a lovely, seemingly effortless flight – and harvests a stick, which she brings to the North nest. Mr. North joins the nestorations at 1:26 and the two work side by side – no sticky shenanigans this time! – until the video ends.
October 19, 2023: Mr. North & DNF, closeups, nestorations, cows – https://youtu.be/g6jRY4W0dyo?si=RKA_lvlqt6fDVxAg. This is a long but very pretty video. Watch the whole thing are fast forward through it to find your favorite parts. I especially enjoyed the close-ups of DNF between minute two and eight (look at her beautiful dark head feather vanes!); nestorations after Mr. flies in with a stick at 10:29; DNF resplendent against the green grass and fall colors beginning in the 22 minute (plus bonus cattle!); and more close-ups starting in the 27th mimute.
October 20, 2023: Close-up Sandhill Crane – https://youtu.be/oxyRjvaTpfs?si=mjiUnNpF-RuSlBjS. A stunning look at an adult sandhill crane! Check out its red head (not red feathers, but a patch of bare skin), smoldering orange eyes, grey and cinnamon feathers, long elegant legs and toes, and strong dark beak. Amazing!
I love these close-up looks at Sandhill Crane heads. As we’ve seen on the Flyway, cranes sometimes hammer to obtain food buried deeply in the mud and silt of the river bottom. How do they keep from sustaining brain damage over time? Ed Yong writes about woodpeckers and hammering here: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2022/07/woodpeckers-brain-injury-protection-evolutionary-adaptation/670516/.