For those of you who don't know, Bob founded the Raptor Resource Project to propagate and release peregrine falcons. He was the first person to successfully breed peregrine falcons in Minnesota. MF-1, one of the first falcons he produced and released, became the first returned falcon to breed in the mid-continent following the species' extirpation in the mid-1960's. It took an incredible amount of work to keep the peregrine falcon from joining the long list of species that will be mourned on the remembrance day for lost species. I am thankful that the peregrine falcon is still with us. Where we have a will, we have a way.
|Falcon MF-1. Produced by Bob, she was the first falcon to return and breed in the wild mid-continent.|
Most of the power plant people originally involved in our utility-peregrine program have retired, but a new generation of men and women have replaced them in this unique marriage of industry and conservation. The peregrine would not be where it is today without their help and whole-hearted involvement in the program. Together we've put up nest boxes and internet cameras, cared for falcons, eagles, and kestrels, and looked at ways to make generation and distribution safer for our birds. I am thankful to have worked with the fine men and women employed at America's power plants. The utility-peregrine program is an example of the ways in which humans can support wildlife even in the unlikeliest of areas. You guys are awesome...and great fun, too!
|Banding at Xcel's Allen S. King plant in 2010|
|Falcons raised for cliff release, 1997|
|Rob and Bob|
|John and Bob|
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 started a dedicated ad-free educational video stream and chat last year. Over 900 educators and classrooms participated in it last year, and we're hoping to double that in 2018. We also started a research and educational banding station in partnership with Luther College, began filming with the Untamed Science crew, and are planning to add a new kestrel live stream in partnership with Neil Rettig Productions and Cornell University.
- 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: We've begun an educational endowment in Bob's honor. Please follow this link to learn more and to donate!
- Connecting People with the Natural World: John upped the ante on our cameras! We are currently providing top-notch, HD, ads-free streams through Explore, and the opportunity for live chat through Ustream. John's current camera installations are also letting us take a look at life outside our nests - an important part of understanding and caring for the eagles and falcons we watch. 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 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 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 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. In re-reading it, I affirmed my own goal to help our eagles' futures stretch as long as their past. May Mom and Dad's progeny survive into a beautiful future, and may falcon MF-1 have thousands more descendants! Long may they all fly!
The Raptor Resource Project wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!