Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some of the birds we watched have really struggled this spring. They face many challenges, including weather (the snowstorm at the Fort St. Vrain nest as the first eaglet was hatching), other birds (territorial battles at the Valmont owl nest and Red Wing grain elevator), and, especially in the case of cliff-nesting birds, other animals. Yet they persevere. Both eagle eggs at Fort St. Vrain have hatched and the young eaglets seem to be doing well despite the horrendous weather. Looking at this image, you wouldn't guess the nest had been covered in snow just a day or two before. The owls at Valmont appear to be ready to recycle and lay a new clutch any night now. The Horizon Milling female, Lolo, has laid her second egg. Hatch will be in roughly early May - I'll give a better date for that once egg three is laid. And at the Raptor Resource Project we are, among other things, conducting river surveys and getting ready for banding season.
My children and I went down the Mississippi River on the WI side yesterday to look for peregrines. We started at Diamond Head Bluff in Diamond Head, WI. We didn't see any peregrines there, but we did see 15-20 of what I think were broadwinged hawks kettling over the bluff. It is a wonderful time to be on the river right now - the floodplain is brimming over and everything is waking up!
Moving on down the river, we saw mature and immature bald eagles, red-winged hawks, pelicans, ducks, and beavers. We were unable to survey the Bay City bluff - I think that will need to be done by boat, or possibly hiking - but we did see a female peregrine flying in the vicinity of West Bluff. We spotted a male and female at Maiden Rock. This year, she was sitting in a dead snag to the north of last year's eyrie, roughly in the black circle area. I don't know whether she'll stay there, but she did explore a pothole in the area while we watched her.
Next, the children and I went to Twin Bluffs in Nelson, WI. We did not see peregrines there, so we went to say 'Hi!' to Gary Grunewald and check out Maasen's Bluff. It is a good thing Gary is handy, because Rebekah locked my keys in the car, and he had to break in to get them. You can break into a Saturn with a long piece of wire and a little patience. Thanks, Gary! Gary also told me he had not yet seen or heard peregrines, but we maybe saw a male peregrine right before I left. That bluff will need a harder look.
There were no falcons present at the Alma Marina cliff, although the lone pothole had fresh whitewash. This could be from birds other than peregrines, however - a GHO has nested there in years past. We saw a female at 12-Mile bluff behind the Alma powerplant. I cannot tell you how happy I was that she appeared to be exploring a completely new pothole on the bluff. That old pothole was a bear to get to! If she picks this new one - it is high up on the 'point' of the bluff, as seen from the north - it should make things easier.
I didn't see any falcons in Fountain City or, to my disappointment, at Castle Rock Bluff. I sat at Castle for 15 minutes, scanning the bluff and sky and checking all of the usual perching places. Nothing. However, Maggie Jones reports falcons at Lock and Dam 9 and Lynxville, and the season is young yet. Possibly the bluff will fill up yet!
If you see falcons in Fountain City or at Castle Rock (or anywhere else along the Mississippi between roughly Red Wing and southern Iowa, in any of the states), please drop us an email: Thank you, and happy birding online and off!