Happy New Year! May 2024 be filled with joy, love, and birds! RRP Director John Howe is pleased to present our winter newsletter, which you can find here: https://www.raptorresource.org/raptorresource/pdf/2023-winter-newsletter.pdf.
We live in a unique era where some of the fundamental forces driving raptor behavior are in flux. Climate change is influencing seasonal transitions, including egg-laying and migration timing with the Peregrine Falcons we monitor. Our research is also opening a window into the far-reaching effects of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), which is fatal to most raptors. Long-term monitoring programs like ours are important since they help us understand stresses on raptor populations and how they impact behavior and health.
Despite the challenges posed by climate change and avian influenza, we banded a record 81 peregrine falcons this year. We monitored impacts on the peregrine falcon population with pre-nest season surveys, focused banding of young, and follow-up monitoring. We expanded our field research programs to collect bodily fluid and blood samples for HPAI analysis by The Raptor Center and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Monitoring the health and well-being of raptors is challenging in this time of change, but time and careful research will reveal how lasting the effects of HPAI will be and perhaps give us tools to fight it.
The wondrous world of Bald Eagles in Decorah
We were treated to a season like no other with the nesting of Hatchery Mom and Hatchery Dad in a starter nest that we rebuilt in the fall of 2021; the remarkable survival of their second nestling DH2; a micro-burst storm that nearly took down the nest tree; and a successful fledge. We also monitored the unsuccessful nesting season of Mom Decorah and her mate DM2 in new nest N4 along the Upper Iowa River. At the Decorah North Nest, we observed an atypical nesting season when resident female DNF laid one egg instead of her usual two. We believe we witnessed the results of a nesting female exhibiting territorial behavior. DNF did her best to keep intruder adult eagles away while Mr. North did his best to incubate his precious egg to hatch. Unfortunately, he couldn’t incubate the egg by himself, and it froze and cracked. We hope for a more normal nesting season in 2024.
Our Golden Eagle monitoring and tracking program expanded in 2023 with the addition of five more eagles wintering in the Driftless area. We have assembled a team to trap and transmit at least four more adult Golden Eagles in 2024. Our Golden Eagle partners spent the summer in Nunavut, Canada, near Hudson Bay and the Northwest Passage! Every day is an exciting day as we learn more about these powerful and mysterious raptors.
I love the wide-ranging coverage of our raptor education programs that span from kindergarten to college students. Our collaborative, hands-on raptor monitoring station with Luther College has expanded to the Mississippi River, and two stations have provided double the access for training and research, giving high school and college students the unique experience of holding a live raptor, examining and studying it, and releasing it to the wild. In the classroom, our Education-in-Action program is used by teachers across the country and around the globe!
Our future leaders in raptor conservation surround us. Each class of students we introduce to life in an eagle nest or the beauty of a buteo moves us along in our goal of engaging and developing our future conservationists. We are truly meeting our mission of education, conservation, and research. A heartfelt thanks to our volunteer moderators, cam operators, videographers, partners, and donors. Our live streams, education programs, and research would not be possible without you.
Here’s to an exciting year of raptor research and discovery in 2024! Thank you so much for making a difference with us!