In 2017, we expanded our educational partnerships with Luther College and the Fish and Wildlife Service, kicked off the Robert Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund, and began working on short videos to expand our online educational program. We:
- Began a banding station in collaboration with Luther College. We were awarded a grant by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources’ Conservation Education Program to develop a collaborative educational partnership with the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities and Environmental Studies. The proposal included the construction of a raptor banding station at Hawk Hill on the NW corner of the Luther campus. The station was masterminded by Dave Noble, who built it with the help of Dave Kester, John Howe, and amy Ries. It is managed by RRP’s board member and master bander permit holder Dave Kester, who is working closely with Emily Neal of the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities and Environmental Studies. The partnership strengthens the connection between academia and non-profit conservation to provide students with unprecedented direct access to conservation research. Our first year is almost done and we are excited to continue this valuable program in 2018 and beyond! You can read more about it here! http://www.kwwl.com/story/36319000/2017/09/Friday/new-partnership-allows-luther-students-to-get-out-of-the-classroom-into-the-field
- Kicked off an educational endowment in Bob Anderson's name. The Robert Anderson Memorial Scholarship Fund is managed through the NE Iowa Community Foundation and we have a running start at funding it to the goal of reaching a sustaining level of $25K. When we reach that goal, we will offer our first scholarship at Luther College in his honor. We have witnessed the type of students we envisioned during the first year of our raptor banding station at Hawk Hill. With good momentum and visibility of the fund, we may reach that goal by the end of 2018! If you are interested in donating to the endowment, please visit https://cfneia.org/giving/contribute/712-as.
- Filmed with Sustainable Driftless Inc and Untamed Science to collect footage of falcon banding and create some educational short videos, including a video about Bob's falcon recovery. We also collected data about how peregrine falcons react to the presence of drones, which was shared with other banders and members of the North American Flyway Council. you can read our report and observations here:
- Embarked on a collaborative project to create a live cam with the US Fish & Wildlife Service that will help educate people about the importance of the Mississippi River Flyway to raptors and other birds. Imagine a live display where field trip classrooms and home viewers can observe bald eagles, pelicans, tundra swans, passerines, and countless varieties of ducks and waterfowl!
We also kept busy with our online interaction and education program! Since January 1, 2017, we have:
- Provided 1,785 hours of chat on the Decorah eagles channel, including 449 hours of dedicated educational chat. Our Decorah North group provided 576 hours of moderated chat.
- Posted 368 times on Facebook. Topics and photos included the Decorah Eagles, the Decorah North Eagles, the GSB Peregrine falcons, the Fort St. Vrain eagles, tracking D27, Robin Brumm's trips to Decorah, peregrine falcon banding, nest box work, and many other topics related to our nests and birds. Posts were shared from Neil Rettig Productions, SOAR, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, and Jim Brandenberg's 365 Nature project.
- Wrote 31 blogs. We addressed questions about the eagles, the nests, nest intruders, eaglet growth and development, eagle vision, eagle dreams, hunting and fishing lead free, prey remains in the nest and much more!
- Started an ad-free stream in partnership with Explore.org. We now offer ad-free streams of the Decorah Eagles, the Decorah North Eagles, and the Great Spirit Bluff falcons! Those can be watched at Explore or on our website at www.raptorresource.org.
Monitoring, Banding, and Recovery
Our peregrine falcon program is key part of who we are and what we do! In 2017, we:
- Monitored over 50 peregrine falcon and bald eagle nest sites and potential territories in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado.
- Banded 58 falcons at 22 sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois between May 25 and July 5th! Our northernmost territory was in Cohasset, Minnesota and our southernmost territory was in Peoria, Illinois. As always, we reported all banding and follow up data to the Bird Banding Lab and the Midwest Peregrine Society.
- Installed a tracking platform on D27, who is still going strong near Strawberry Point in Iowa!
- Retrieved the bodies of two falcons from the Great Spirit Bluff nest for autopsy. The Raptor Center concluded that they died from black fly bites.
Camera Research and Installation
John Howe, Kike Arnal, David Kester, Amy Ries, Richard Meredith, Bill Heston, Tina Lopez, John Kaczmarek, and Liam Grainger installed a total of fifteen new cameras and microphones at N1, N2B, Decorah North, Fort St. Vrain, GSB, and Xcel Energy's Sherco and Allen S. King plants this year. We did our three eagle cam sites between August 22 and September 29th, when the eagles are at their loosest point of attachment to their nests! It was a busy season but the upgrades in video and sound were well worth it! The installations took roughly 950 hours total.
We also replaced the Great Spirit Bluff nestbox! Our caring, dedicated livecam viewers helped greatly by raising funds to replace the original box installed by Bob Anderson and Dave Kester in 2003. It served fourteen productive years and produced 41 falcons, making it one of our most productive cliff sites. Rather than completely re-designing the box, we transitioned to a design built by John Howe that resembles a cliff eyrie. The lack of a back exposes the falcons to the bare rock of the cliff, and the added insulation allows it to better retain the temperatures of the massive rock face.
John Howe put in hundreds of hours researching, ordering, and testing cameras this year. While the majority of our installs are done in September and October, camera and streaming research take place year-round.
- We threw our annual After The Fledge party between July 13th and July 16th. Almost 100 eagle fans and volunteers had a blast celebrating the Decorah eagles and Decorah itself! Pagent Decorah added a very cool boat ride on Sunday this year, and we're looking forward to doing it again next year!
- We upgraded our website and our live streams to give users a safer, easier, and faster way to watch our eagles and falcons on a variety of platforms, including mobile devices and tablets!
- We added new remote volunteer camera operators to increase our coverage. This has given us new insights into the lives and habitat of the birds we watch!
In 2017, our annual expenses are hovering around $254,000 per year. They break down like this:
- Staff and contractor compensation will cost an estimated $142,000 this year. We hired John on January 1st of 2017, paid two busy contractors (Amy and Dave), and incurred additional expenses hiring climbers and helpers for four camera projects and the new nest box installation at Great Spirit Bluff. These were extensive projects, with roughly 500 hours spent on the Decorah and Decorah North installs in September alone. Although Iowa’s Conservation Education Program helped pay for our banding station with Luther College, we still need to compensate master banders and our master builder! We are committed to paying a fair wage for work, which means that everyone we contract with is compensated at a living wage or better.
- Camera equipment and IT expenses – cameras, microphones, cables, encoders, software, licensing fees, website costs, and so on – will come in at around $42,000. HD and 4K cameras are amazing, brilliant, and breathtaking…but they don’t come cheap.
- Office and field supplies – paper, printer expenses, new ropes, slings, rappelling tools, hardware, zip ties, screws, silicon gel, rope bags, harnesses, lumber, paint, tape, bands, banding equipment, and trapping equipment – will cost about $7,500. Given all the trips we made to the hardware store this year, I think it’s a pretty good deal! Several of us also pay for our own climbing equipment instead of having RRP do it, which helps keep expenses lower and gives Amy a great excuse to go shopping!
- Office and land rental fees cost $7,500.
- We can’t work or drive the company vehicle without insurance! Although it isn’t nearly as exciting a topic as eagles or falcons, John did an excellent job negotiating insurance, which will cost us $1,300 this year. This was a decrease from last year, and we have better coverage, too! Other things I would put in the necessary-but-ho-hum category include vehicle expenses ($4,500), fundraising fees and gifts ($6,000), accounting ($4,000), postage and delivery ($5000 – and that’s with the non-profit rate!), and our endowment funding ($2,000 and please consider donating to the Bob Anderson Memorial Scholarship fund).
- Travel and meetings cost us $8,000. While this might sound expensive, Amy alone put over 30,000 RRP-related miles on last year. This number would be much higher if Amy and John didn’t donate a significant amount of their travel. Although we don’t usually go too far from home, we put a lot of miles on during banding and camera season! Despite our mileage donations, I suspect that this number will be a little higher than projected.
- Printing and copying isn’t cheap! We’re projecting a total of $12,000 for this year. That includes two large newsletter printings, all of our thank you letters and envelopes, and any printing related to talks, events, and presentations.
- Speaking of events, After the Fledge will cost about $1,500 this year. You should come next year – it is a great celebration of our eagles!
- And finally, grants to partner organizations will total $10,000.
Our income is generated by a combination of donations from viewers, grants from corporate partners, and (new this year!) a grant from the Iowa DNR’s Conservation Education program. But donations from viewers like you remain our biggest single source of income. We sincerely appreciate your generosity and support of the Raptor Resource Project mission. Would you please help us make a difference with your donation? Thank you so much for your support and we hope you enjoy watching in 2018!