Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First Mississippi River falcon survey for 2008

On Sunday March 16th, I set off on my first river falcon survey for the season. I began my search at Leo’s Bluff near Waukon Junction, IA. Neil Rettig reported seeing one falcon up on the cliff while driving by on 3/13/08. I was a tad disappointed to begin this first of many surveys without seeing a falcon at this lovely cliff. I decided to make a u-turn and head back downstream to Nobles Island, where I was pleased to see an adult falcon flying over Paint Rock cliff, heading directly to Leo’s Bluff. I then felt better beginning my search for falcons.

I was able to locate one adult male falcon on the cliff behind the Lansing power plant. We blocked off the front of the nest box up on the stack last season as there was construction taking place through all of the month of May. The falcons moved back over to their favored ledge on the cliff and once again, the eggs were eaten by raccoons. I’m hoping we can make the stack nest box available for the 2008 nesting season, giving us time to figure out some way to block raccoons from this one ledge the falcons favor.

I found two adult falcons at Queen’s Bluff.

No sign of falcons at the Homer cliff.

I crossed the river at Winona, MN and was pleased to quickly locate two adult falcons at Castle Rock.

No sign of falcons at the Fountain City cliffs.

I was pleased to find two adult falcons at 12 Mile Bluff. This cliff is adjacent to the Alma power plant, where the falcons have bounced back and forth from the stack nest box to this cliff. Where will they nest this year?

I spent quite a bit of time searching the face of the Alma Marina cliff with no luck. I hope this will be the year for falcons to return to this historic nest site.

I was pleased to discover two adult falcons strafing an immature falcon that made the mistake of flying past the face of Maassen’s Bluff. I noticed that the driveway to our local falcon enthusiast, Gary Grunwald, was still blocked for the season. Usually, Gary returns to his upper Mississippi home around the same time the falcons do. I hope all is well for our friend and Maassen’s Bluff falcon observer.

I was pleased to locate an adult falcon flying back and forth across the faces of Twin Bluffs near Nelson, WI. I have notified the owners of this cliff of my observation and know they will be pleased. (Amy's Note: I hear there are rattlesnakes on this cliff. I hope I get to see one ! The landowners here are doing a great job of preserving their cliff top.)

I spent about ten minutes at Maiden Rock cliff before locating an adult male falcon perched on a dead cedar snag. I had a string of cars behind me as I passed West Bluff and decided to pass on stopping, knowing that the owners of this cliff will inform us when falcons appear.

As I drove through the town of Red Wing, MN, I could easily see an adult falcon perched in the front of the Red Wing Grain falcon nest box. We installed a camera at this nest box last year during the banding event. Plant personnel are in the process of installing an Axis server, so we should soon have this nest site linked to the RRP bird cam page.

I met with Dan Orr at the Xcel Energy SHERCO plant on Monday morning with hopes to mount the replacement nest box, camera, and microphone. However, an outage at the plant along with poor weather forced us to cancel this installation. Dan will see that the nest box and camera equipment gets installed this week.

We are so very fortunate to have many friends and falcon enthusiasts helping us follow the cliff nest sites along the big river. We were pleased with the new cliff nest sites that came on line in 2007. I hope all of these cliff sites are active once again this season and, am willing a few more to come on line.

Bob Anderson