February 5, 2024: News and NestFlix from Decorah North and Decorah

We’re not pacing the delivery room floor yet, but with an estimated 11 days until egg number one, we’re practicing our breathing exercises! Mr. North and DNF are piling up multiple layers of soft, fluffy grass and shredded husks for their egg cup, adding the final touches to their nestery, and bonding more frequently and intensely. Whatever the date, eggs aren’t far off!

I think everyone’s noticed the number of Canada Geese at the hatchery right now. You’ll be happy – or not! – that we spotted a Canada Goose in nest N2B just this morning: a full fourteen days early than last year. It’s a relatively warm winter and the living is easy, at least for now. We’ll see what happens when winter returns and whether Mother Goose’s early appearance results in earlier laying!

Thanks so much to our amazing camera operators, video makers, and to all of you for watching, sharing, learning, and especially for caring. Talons crossed for an eggcellent year for our eagles and everybirdie else!

Decorah North
February 2, 2023: Fish - the brainfood breakfast of champions!
February 2, 2023: Fish – the brainfood breakfast of eagle champions!

February 2, 2024: DNF brings fish to the nest, finishes it up, bathes in the streamhttps://youtu.be/ROl9OtZhc6w?si=PIBpe5eheCercpL3. We have some wonderful close-ups of DNF eating the fish beginning at about 2:16, but the bath is the real treat! As Tulsa notes: “One of the best eagle baths I’ve seen”! Go to 13:23 to see her wade into the water. Once she finds her spa spot (14:21) she dips her head. It takes her a bit to settle in, but at 15:05 she starts her bath, plunging her head beneath the water and splashing water up across her back. I especially liked the sequence at beginning at 16:40. It’s hard to believe she doesn’t enjoy her bath, especially when she splashes with such abandon!

The stream flows out of a spring and is probably about 44F right now: a pleasant dip on a warm winter day. I’m curious about what makes the perfect eagle bath! It can’t be too deep, since she couldn’t dip and shuffle if she was floating. The bottom must have some structure to lock into or around so she can shift and move. She might like some current to ruffle her feathers and carry the detritus away, but she probably doesn’t want to end up downstream. And the swimming hole needs to be wide enough to accomodate her roughly three-foot long body. Whatever her criteria, it looks like she found the perfect spa spot!

February 2, 2024: DNF defeats a stubborn stick!
February 2, 2024: DNF defeats a stubborn stick!

February 2, 2024: DNF fights with the forked stick while Mr. North feasts on raccoonhttps://youtu.be/o5_7i2qK9E4?si=swHhis5gd80H9Iw7. I like this video for several reasons. It’s always great to see DNF, she’s trying to place a large, impressively wonky wishbone-shaped stick that keeps stymying her best efforts as it gets caught in her tail and wings (check the sequence starting at about 45 seconds), and Mr. North finally found the dead raccoon below the North nest…assuming that he or DNF didn’t kill it and drop here. While DNF struggles with her stick, Mr. North slices and dices the fresh meat.

DNF and Mr. North’s stick obsessions are hilarious, but they get results: a well-structured nest with most heavy, wonky sticks to the bottom and outside, and most straighter, lighter sticks to the top and inside. According to our camera operators’ notes, the two have brought in roughly 160 sticks since October 15: an average of 1.4 sticks per day!

February 2, 2024: Dead Racoon Feeds Everyone at Decorah Northhttps://youtu.be/0ImLhUbgGlo?si=ooZf6Ulfi2ABdCGY. A group of American crows and a sub-adult Bald Eagle take turns feasting on the already-chewed carcass of a racoon. Look for the eagle’s first appearance at 12 seconds into the video.

February 2, 2024: A subadult eagle feasts on a dead raccoon near the North nest.
February 2, 2024: A subadult eagle feasts on a dead raccoon near the North nest.

I’d love to know more about how this carcass got here and what else has been eating it! We heard coyotes singing near the North nest right after midnight, which got at least one neighborhood dog barking. Was it killed and partially eaten by coyotes? Was it ill? Did it die here or was it dragged here? Did one of the eagles kill it and drop it here for further processing? I reviewed our video but didn’t learn much.

However it got here, the racoon provided a valuable meal. Carrion has some interesting tradeoffs with live prey. A carcass can’t run away or bite, but its nutritional and energetic returns diminish pretty quickly as it decomposes and other animals join the putrefying picnic. Fortunately, the refrigerator-like air – cold and a little damp – is delaying decomposition and keeping the meat’s energy content high. Note the crows! Crows are unable to tear the skin from fresh carcasses. They benefit by feeding in association with eagles, who tear everything open and leave relatively fresh scraps behind. The crows don’t bother the eagles and may benefit them by sounding the alarm on approaching competitors!

Decorah Eagles

February 5, 2024: Canada Goose on N2Bhttps://youtu.be/BNQcFCK7Zio?si=JSxKpiP2nR-UoEBC. And so it begins! When did we first see a Canada Goose last season? I checked the record and our camera operators saw a goose land in N2B on February 19. The goose is a little early this year, but not as early as I thought. The warm weather and open water seems to have kept some partial migrants further north, and some of their vocalizations and behavior over the past few days seem, like the weather, downright spring-like! We’ll see what happens when winter returns in mid-February.