Tuesday, March 17, 2009

First Mississippi River falcon survey on 3/13/09
Report by Bob Anderson

I met Dave Kester and Leo, his son just outside of Waukon Junction, IA on the morning of 3/13/09. I knew we were in for a fun day when Dave pointed out to Leo two adult Bald Eagles and Leo responded, “No Dad, there are three eagles.” He was correct. We had very cold weather for the week prior, but the weather man/person promised a day of sun and temperatures above freezing. We were anxious to search for falcons on bluffs. At a small cliff we call Leo’s Bluff a short distance upstream from Waukon Junction, IA we immediately located an adult falcon perched on a dead cedar snag high on the cliff wall. We also heard another falcon making the courting wailing call a bit downstream. Our soon-to-be-five year-old apprentice was wondering what could be so exciting looking at a white blob up in a tree. We were pleased to find two falcons on our first cliff of the survey.

At the Lansing, IA power plant cliff we quickly located two adult falcons. This is an interesting nest site. In past years when we made a nest box available up on the power plant stack, the falcon would be productive. However, we removed the stack nest box and mounted a nest box to the cliff wall a few years ago. When the falcons nested in this cliff nest box they were also productive. Over the last few years the falcons have ignored the cliff nest box and moved to a large ledge mid wall on the cliff. Oddly, the falcons continue to use this ledge even though year after year their eggs or young have been depredated by raccoons. This last summer we rappelled down the cliff wall at several places, hoping to locate just where the raccoons access the ledge and install some sort of deterrent. We were not able to determine the exact access point. Once again this year, production on this cliff will be determined by where the falcons nest and access by raccoons.

We crossed the river in Lansing, Iowa and made our way to the series of cliffs near Lynxville, WI. We did not find falcons on site on this day but noticed that the river was still frozen. We continued downstream to the cliff at Lock and Dam 9 and did not find falcons, probably due to the river still frozen in this region.

We crossed the river once again in Prairie du Chien, WI and headed to McGregor, IA where last year we attracted an adult male falcon and immature female falcon to a nest box on the milling stack house that towers over this small river town. We did not find falcons on Friday the 13th, but Dave returned to the stack house the next day and was pleased to confirm an adult peregrine on site. We first mounted this nest box about ten years ago and maybe, just maybe, 2009 will be the year for success.

I will carry out a river survey searching the cliffs and nest boxes upstream on the west side of the river from Lansing, IA to Red Wing, MN and all of the WI cliffs and nest boxes later this week. It will be nice to re-new friendships with the cliff land owners and with luck, find new cliff sites with territorial falcons.

Here we go again…..

Bob Anderson