Saturday, December 30, 2017

A trip down memory lane: Favorites from 2017, Decorah North Edition!


It's time for a look back at 2017! We asked the Decorah North Mods for some favorite moments from Decorah North. We hope you enjoy a trip down memory lane!

2017 marked the 8th year that eagles have nested in the valley of the Norths! We don't know whether the same eagles have been here all along. The first nest (DNN0) was built in a pine tree. The branches collapsed after the second nesting season and the eagles moved to a dead elm tree. They nested there for just one year before moving to their current location in late 2013. 2017 will mark their fourth season in the nest we are watching them in now! Although we refer to it as DNN, it is technically DNN2.

Sherri Elliott said: "Seeing Mr. North's new maturity and almost 50/50 partnership in purveying provisions this year. Hearing Mrs. North 'teakettle' for the first time this year with new mic, and knowing she can easily set it to 'steam' like Mom Decorah. Observing both parents in a deep dream state, vocalizing, jolting, and in the case of Mr. North drowsy scolding at night. The North's dexterity in footing to roll their eggs."

Her favorite videos included:

12/21/17: Coyote Howling  & Chorus -
It's not eagles, but it is very cool! The chorus made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!

12/03/17: Perch party! Not 1, not 2, but 7 Eagles - Sherri said: To me this ranks as one of the top observations of BE sociability and reminds me of last seasons “Pool Party” with multiple BE’s bathing in the stream.

11/30/17: Struggling to Lift Stick from stream pasture - 
Sherri: This was Mrs, who later brought the stick to the nest, but to me the observation seems a lot more like stick play rather than attempts to lift and carry.

11/29/17: Keep Off Our Nest - Dad attacks J/SA -
If you watch the North Nest, you know all about the Super Flyway. The North's accept visitors across the field, but don't tend to appreciate them at the nest tree. It isn't uncommon to see hungry juveniles and subadults attempting to steal a little breakfish during peak migration.

11/24/17: Splashdown, Parent Catches a Fish -
Sherri: I love to see them fish!

11/07/17: Sub Adult Chase -

10/30/17: Eagle With Fish & One In Pursuit! Perching & Nice Fly-Off  -

10/25/17: Intruder wants Dad's Fish -

10/11/17: GHO Visits - We've heard GHO at Decorah North, but we've never seen them nest shopping like this before!  

7/26/17: Sighting of DN4 and DN5 - We believe this was the last sighting of both caught on cam.

7/22/17: 2:35 p.m. CDT: Round the Pasture We Go - fledglings/juvies and both parents seen flying in the pasture. 

6/15/17: DN4 & DN5 Rumble in the Nest  - A lot of you watched and commented on this. DN5 had a very strong response to DN4's return, although they quickly accepted one another once the initial surprise wore off. 

6/11/17 - DN4 Accidental Fledge (knocked off by DN5) -
What do you mean? I didn't notice my sibling was there! We got a lot of email and comments about this as well. 

5/30/17: Small owl attack on DN4 -
I initially thought this might have been a barred owl, but it is really small! We're going to share this video with Karla Bloem of The International Owl Center and see what she thinks! 

4/17/17: Dad North's cowghetti delivery gets hung up on the rails, and Mrs fetches it. Hmmmm....cowghetti!

4/08/17: Dad North Alerts & Defends from Intruder (with DN4 copycatting Dad's wingspread) - I saw this exact same behavior when we banded falcons at MPL's Cohasset plant this year. It was charming and fascinating to see "Big Sis" copying Mom's defensive behavior!

3/11/17: Mom Home, Drowsy Dad Refuses To Leave -
This was so cute!

River Eagle also liked Mom's late evening arrival. I had completely forgotten about "Stranger Danger". Mrs North's late arrival startled Mr. North but scared chatters who thought a stranger was invading. The "Juvie in Pasture Runs Parent off of Prey" video was another favorite. I think I'd rather face a hangry human than a juvenile bald eagle intent on eating, and I can't tell you how much I enjoyed seeing the green pasture again!

6/22/17: Juvie in Pasture Runs Parent off of Prey -

ModV brought up many of the same moments, but added two new ones:

5/08/17: Goose at the nest -
One of the most interesting sights was early one morning when a goose landed on the babysitting branch.

3/07/17: Mrs. North dreaming -
Mrs. North dreaming was so cool to watch!
(Blog here:

Mod7 and BeautyofEagles both brought up a personal favorite of mine - a peregrine falcon visits DNN! Note that this video also contains some cows! (Blog here:

Mod7 said: "Of course the OOPS PS (there's always a few!) of DN5 on Mrs. North. it's almost like DN5 aimed at her. lol Don't PS on the eagle that feeds you!"

"And watching Mr. North feed the little can really see the change in him and he's grown so much. It melts my heart when he takes care of his eaglets." This video is really lovely:

Thank you so much for the trip down memory lane!<3 p="">

Friday, December 29, 2017

A trip down memory lane: Favorites from 2017, Decorah Edition!

It's time for a look back at 2017! We asked the mods for some favorite moments from Decorah and Decorah North. We'll feature Decorah today and Decorah North tomorrow. We hope you enjoy a trip down memory lane! 2017 marked the 9th year that Mom and Dad have nested together in a cottonwood tree! They produced fourteen eaglets at N1, nine eaglets at N2, and five eaglets at N2B, the nest we started for them in August of 2015. We don't know how old Dad is, but he is older than Mom, who turned fourteen this year.

Mom back, Dad front
We'll start with the eaglets. All of the eaglets were somebody's favorite! You liked (or were distressed by) D26's fierce behavior and insistence on being first to the dinner table, especially in the first few weeks. You cheered for D28 when he bonked back at the older and larger D26, and groaned, worried, or emailed when D27 took the brunt of D26's bonkings. While any given eaglet was someone's favorite, many of you were captivated by D27! Whether she was screeing for food, acting the Diva, lounging about in the nest, or beginning her first tentative explorations during fledge, you watched her, compared to her to D1, and weren't especially surprised to find out that it was a she once Brett, John, and company fitted her for a transmitter! Jfrancl wrote:

"One of my favorite memories from the 2017 season was watching D27's behaviors as she grew and how different she was from D26 and D28. She seemed to follow the pattern I have often read about on eaglet gender behavior and growth patterns.  In my mind I knew she had to be female!" You can continue to follow D27 here:

JFrancl also mentioned: "Three eggs and three hatches, again! D28 attempting to eat its first meal on hatch day! Tandem feedings. Giggling at the Tree Amigos! Observing all three throughout the season and guessing genders based on behaviors. The hatchery cam. Watching all participating classroom students excited to learn about eagles! Working closely with John, Amy, the Ustream chat room mods and the Facebook mods in helping to continue Bob's mission. Once again, watching Mom and Dad's attentiveness and devotion to their young. Last but not least, a great After the Fledge Celebration!" I thought this video of a feeding from April 4th was a lot of fun. Remember D28's dark head? And it was a greatATF! We all loved seeing Mr. Decorah (widely believed to be D20 from 2014): Our mods gave everyone a nice goodbye, too:

D26, D28, and D27 (I think) on April 08, 2017
Since everyone loves hatch and first glimpse videos, I included them as well:
Glogdog wrote: "One of my favorite videos that sticks in my mind this season was on 1/2/17 when Dad brings in a long stick and gets stuck between 2 trees in mid-air. Mom realizes it and steps up to help bring it down! I also liked the times that Mom and Dad protected the eaglets during bad weather."
Mom and Dad working together as a team to protect the eaglets on April 3rd, 2017 
Tulsa Ducati: "Lightning show!" Tulsa joined the ranks of our videomakers this year and we featured many of her videos. One of her favorites was the incredible storm that rolled in on June 28.

Faith: "A tandem evening feeding". This video was also one of my favorites. Mom and Dad feed the eaglets together on the evening of April 2nd.

Mom and Dad tandem feeding on April 2nd, 2017
Oregonian: "D27 gets back to nest!" I had completely forgotten about this, so I really appreciated the reminder! Oregonian wrote: "Without a doubt watching D27 work her way back to the nest after she tumbled out. I was riveted watching her figure how to get back.

Pyrmum wrote: "My favorite moments are when Dad is feeding the eaglets and he keeps looking around to see if Mom is on her way to kick him off the nest. I get a real kick out of it!" All of us get a kick out of Mom and Dad's antics! I was not able to find a specific video for this behavior (although I remember it), so I substituted another favorite - Mom gently nudging Dad off the nest!

Robin Brumm had several favorites!
  • 4-3-17 "When both parents were trying to protect the eaglets from the rain. Dad didn't want to leave, but finally Mom pushed him out. When he got up, I believe he knocked D27 on her back, so she was laying their with her little feet flailing, lol!"
  • 4-13-17 "...And you can't forget when D26 went for a little ride on the clump of grass mom was trying to pull out of the nest cup!
  • 5-6-17 "Not that it was a favorite, but it was memorable when Mom got knocked off the skywalk by the owl."
  • 7-16-17 "All three juvies hanging out in N1 and the Y branch." (This was also a favorite of mine):
Fledged eaglet, 07/01/17. I'm sure Robin knows eggsaxctly who this is!
I had a number of favorites, but these really stood out for me!
  • Lunch feeding - close zoom and wide angle: I loved the view of all three eaglets and this is one of the first times we saw D28 show its fierce! While D27 submitted to D26's bonking behavior, D28 tended to bonk back.
  • Incredible portrait close-ups of D26 and D27 - close zoom. I mentioned I was a sucker for the downy stage, right? In the same vein - Dad allows nestlings out to enjoy warm day:
  • D26 attacking corn husk: Lol - show us how it's done, D26!
  • Three-way mantle: All three eaglets show off their excellent grasp of eaglet table manners. The winner takes all!
Judging by readership, your five favorite blogs in 2017 were:
  • Endangered Species Act Under Threat From Congress (13,511)
    The Act itself hasn't been overturned, but Congress consistently introduced bills and amendments to weaken it, including five that we blogged about here. All of them passed committee and Congress didn't adjourn this year, so those bills may still move forward in 2018.  In late December, the Trump administration declared that they would not be enforcing the Migratory Bird Act.
  • Eagle Eyes! (6233)
    This was fun to write about. I'm a little jealous of bald eagle eyes - human eyes don't see as well or in as many colors!
  • What's inside those bald eagle eggs? (4954)
    This blog discussed embryonic development inside the egg. Some of you really liked it...but some of you were totally weirded out by the illustrations of embryonic stages! Remember to set your clocks for 72 hours once an egg is laid. At that point, the developing eaglet's heart starts beating!
  • Message from the Director (4587)
    You wanted to know what John had to say! 
  • Eaglet growth and development, week two (4523)
    This was the most popular of three development blogs. We talked about the stages of development in all three of our nests, as well as the general structure of eaglet development. We'll do more of these next year!
Have a very happy new year and thanks for watching with us in 2017! We're looking forward to watching with you again in 2018 - and don't forget to check out our new ads-free Decorah Eagles stream at

Dad Decorah

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Project Spotlight: Autumn Migration Banding Station

A Conservation Education Program grant from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources allowed Luther College and the Decorah Raptor Resource Project to build an autumn migration banding station on campus, giving students unprecedented direct access to wildlife and conversation research. The banding station, located on Hawk Hill on the northeast edge of the Luther campus, is large enough for classes to observe wild birds, band them and gather data before releasing them back into the wild.

Falconer Dave Noble designed and built the station with the help of Dave Kester, John Howe, and Amy Ries. In addition to master banders John Stravers (Hawk) and Kester, we hired six Luther interns to help staff the blind from September 15 to November 15. In total, they caught 36 hawks: Red-tailed Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Coopers Hawks, a Northern Goshawk, and a Rough-legged Hawk. 20 of the hawks were hatch year birds and 16 were adults, with 18 females, 12 males, and six of unknown sex. It was a wonderful field research experience for the interns, who became proficient at trapping, handling, ID’ing, sexing, aging, and banding wild hawks. 18 additional students from the University of Upper Iowa visited the blind with ornithologist and assistant Biology Professor Paul Skrade, who was thrilled to trap and band a Red-tailed Hawk during one of his visits.

Once they are caught, birds need to be ID'd, sexed, aged, and assessed. We weigh them, measure them, look for external parasites, and check their overall body condition before releasing them as quickly as we can. The data is recorded and given to the Bird Banding Lab. You can read more about banding here:

Emily and Dave also worked with Decorah’s schools to introduce younger students to birds of prey. 70 first and second grade students participated in our Introduction to Raptors module, 135 first through seventh grade students got to meet and greet a red-tailed hawk and/or a sharp-shinned hawk, and 8 homeschool students took a field trip to the station, where they were introduced to banding and field research.

Students from the Decorah School System meeting a  Red-tailed Hawk
"The awe of being up close and personal with wildlife is a unique and rare opportunity," said Emily Neal, Luther College assistant director for the Center for Sustainable Communities and environmental studies staff instructor. "It's bringing people close to the natural world. Holding a bird in your hand and feeling something that's so free and powerful, yet at the same time fragile in a world where humans have such an impact on our environment is an amazing experience."

Releasing a hawk after processing
While technology has added a vital dimension to bird studies, there is nothing like a hands-on field program to bring us face to face with the lives and deaths of the birds we study. We are thrilled to have launched a collaborative environmental education and research program with Luther College, the Upper Iowa University, and Decorah schools. The banding station is increasing the body of scientific knowledge about raptors and other birds in Iowa, giving a science-based environmental education to Iowa students, and creating effective conservation volunteers for birds of prey. RRP's mission calls on us to preserve and strengthen raptor populations and foster the next generation of preservationists. Our banding station is an essential part of that charge.

We are very grateful to the Iowa DNR for funding our program. The Iowa DNR and local conservation boards do a wonderful job protecting Iowa’s resources. To learn more about Iowa’s Conservation Education Program, please follow this link: 

If you would like to donate to the Bob Anderson Memorial Scholarship fund, follow this link: