|Bob and Dave Hecht banding at Lansing in 2010|
I am thankful to have met Bob. He responded to an ad my little writing business was running back in 1994. I began by writing grants, but very quickly moved into field work. Did I want to attend a banding and take pictures? Yes! Did I want to hold falcons? Yes! Did I want to rappel? Yes yes yes! The writer William Least Heat Moon said in the Wonsevu chapter of the book PrairyErth that "I'm not sure what to make of it, but I think a dream can set you on another path." Bob's dream of restoring the peregrine falcon set many people's lives on another path.
|Banding at Xcel's Allen S King plant in 2005|
Bob was also working on his cliff release project. Back in 1994, he began to believe that nest-site imprinting was preventing the crossover of peregrines from power plants to cliffs. The Iowa DNR was very interested in working with Bob, so he picked up lock, stock, and barrel to move down to Bluffton, Iowa in 1996. He did a successful pilot release on the Upper Iowa river in 1997 and released a total of 19 falcons from Hanging Rock at Effigy Mounds National Monument in 1998 and 1999. The Upper Iowa hackbox can still be seen from the river, although the Effigy Mounds hackboxes are long gone. In 2000, our cliff-released falcons became the first falcons to return to the cliffs of the Mississippi. I remember going to see them quite well, since I was very pregnant with my last son. I did a lot of crazy things for and with Bob, but the only time I remember him being really worried about me was just after I huffed and puffed my way up the back of Queen's Bluff. Pat Schlarbaum's story about peregrine recovery includes information about our cliff releases. It can be read here: http://www.gladysblackeagle.org/project-ideas/longwings-return. I am thankful to have played a small piece in this story, and very grateful to the men and women of the Iowa DNR who supported Bob's work.
|John also likes to rappel!|
This brings us up to the present. In the year since Bob's death, John has worked diligently to keep up with camera and streaming technology, deploy cameras, expand our online educational offerings, honor Bob's legacy, and secure funding (an organization doesn't run very long without money). He has more than proven himself as a director and a leader. I am thankful for John Howe and only wish that Bob was here to see the positive change that John has brought to the Raptor Resource Project.
So where do we go from here? We are sustained by our mission: to preserve and strengthen raptor populations, expand participation in raptor preservation, and help foster the next generation of preservationists. We follow our vision: to deepen the connection between people and the natural world, bringing benefits to both.
- Education: We are looking at ways to improve and increase our educational offerings. In addition to the online interaction we already offer through our unparalleled team of moderators, we are looking at curriculum, educational videos, Skype, short movies, and other ways to reach out to learners of all age and circumstances.
- Preserving and Strengthening Raptor Populations: We will continue to monitor our nests, band falcons, consult on nestboxes and habitat for a variety of species, provide input on conservation issues, and work with federal and state wildlife agencies to benefit of birds of prey. We are also looking at ways to strengthen existing partnerships and build new ones. How can we connect our passionate followers with organizations looking for volunteers? How can we work closer with our utility and industry partners on providing or improving habitat for the many birds that nest on or use utility land and water in other ways? How can we advocate for birds of prey? We have done a lot, but we can do more. We stand on the shoulders of giants!
- Fostering the Next Generation of Preservationists: In addition to our online educational program, we are looking at an educational endowment in Bob Anderson's name. We will have more information about that early next year. An educational endowment seems like an appropriate way to honor Bob's legacy.
- Connecting People with the Natural World: Researching and deploying cameras is a lot of work. Fortunately, we have a director who truly enjoys it! We will continue to do our best to connect watchers with the natural world using up-to-date, unobtrusive technology. A challenge for me: how do we develop quantifiable data from the thousands of hours of footage and anecdotes we've collected? Our knowledge has already changed since we first began watching the eagles (remember eagles are always monogamous?), but there is so much more to learn!
So what else am I thankful for?
- I am thankful for fans of the Decorah eagles and our other birds. Please, keep emailing and mailing your stories and art. You have deepened our lives an immeasurable amount.
- I am thankful for our amazing volunteers. In addition to your incredible work, my life is better for having known you. I've said it before and I'll say it again...your work makes us the best site on the web!
- I am thankful to our Board for providing direction and guidance.
- I am thankful for an unexpected and unlooked for gift: the honor to be part of the Raptor Resource Project's work. My 1994 self - I was 28 years old! - had no way of knowing what saying 'Yes' to Bob's first request would lead to. Bob, we will remember and celebrate you until we join you.
Thank you, everyone. I'm going to close with a link to a favorite blog I did on Bob back in 2012: Watching Bald Eagles. The Raptor Resource Project wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!