In 2018, we expanded our educational partnerships with Neil Rettig Productions and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, partnered with the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and the Brice Prairie Conservation Association on a new Mississippi River Flyway Cam, and built a starter nest after the Decorah North Eagle nest collapsed. We:
- Began a kestrel cam in collaboration with Neil Rettig Productions and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. The cam gave us an intimate look at the lives of nesting kestrels, including hatch, eyass behavior, prey and prey transfers, parental care, and so much more! You can see highlights from this year's nest on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RaptorResourceProject/. During the nesting season, it can be watched here: https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/american-kestrels/.
- Partnered with the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge and the Brice Prairie Conservation Association on a new Mississippi River Flyway Cam. This camera is located on an island in the middle of Lake Onalaska in the Mississippi River and has given watchers an unparalleled look at resident and migrating birds, including Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, Tundra Swans, American White Pelicans, and many other species of birds. That cam can be watched here and here. Speaking personally? I can't tear myself away! I don't know what it will look like in the winter, but it has been simply amazing this fall!
- Built a new starter nest for the Decorah North Eagles after their nest collapsed during a torrential rainstorm in August. The eagles appear to have adopted it and are putting their signature touches on in the form of branches, corn husks and grasses.
We also kept busy with our online interaction and education program! Since January 1, 2018, we have:
- Provided over 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 406 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, Jim Brandenberg's 365 Nature project, and several fan pages.
- Written 11 blogs and 43 articles on our web site. We reported on and addressed questions about the eagles, the nests, nest intruders, eaglet growth and development, Dad's disappearance, the arrival of new males, eagle ID, prey remains in the nest, and the events at the Decorah North Nest.
- Completed our move to Explore.org and moved chat to our website. Our partnership with Explore has allowed us to increase stream quality, drop advertising, and serve content to an ever-growing array of devices, phones, tablets, phablets, and computers. The Decorah Eagles, Decorah North Eagles, Great Spirit Bluff falcons, and Mississippi Flyway Cam can be watched at Explore or on our website at www.raptorresource.org. We're also developing a Field Guide and some reporting tools so you can learn about and report on all of the birds and goings-on around our nests!
- We're looking at ways to grow our educational outreach in 2019, including offering more downloadable curriculum, educational videos, and reporting tools.
Monitoring, Banding, and Recovery
Our peregrine falcon program is key part of who we are and what we do! In 2018, we:
- Monitored over 50 peregrine falcon and bald eagle nest sites and potential territories in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Colorado.
- Banded 72 falcons at 38 sites in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois between May 24 and July 11th! 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. Our northernmost site on the Saint Croix River (Arcola Mills) came online this year, and we're hoping the Root River site is productive next year. Both of these sites are historical eyries that have been empty since the mid-1950s.
- Followed D27! She spent the summer in Ontario before returning home to the Decorah area in September.
Camera Research and Installation
John Howe, Kike (Enrique or Kee-Kay) Arnal, Amy Ries, David Kester, Richard Meredith, John Dingley, Neil Rettig, and Laura Johnson installed a total of six cameras and six microphones at N1, N2B, Decorah North, Lake Onalaska (the Flyway cam), and two kestrel nestboxes near Prairie Du Chien, WI and at Xcel Energy's Pawnee facility in Brush, CO. We upgraded to 4K cameras at N1, N2B, and Decorah North, installed a 4K camera in Lake Onalaska, and cleaned the cameras and collected prey remains at the Fort St. Vrain eagle nest. We did our three eagle cam sites between August 20 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, and we can't stop watching the new Mississippi Flyway cam! The installations took roughly 1050 hours total. Thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Brice Prairie Conservation Association for their help with the Flyway Cam!
Watchers might remember that we installed a new nest box at Great Spirit Bluff last year. This year, two falcons hatched and, thanks to the fan John installed, we had no problems with blackfly-related mortality or jumping! While this design can't be used everywhere, we were very pleased with its performance in our first year and will look at adopting the open-back design and possibly a fan in more nest boxes. 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 19 and July 21. Over 100 eagle fans and volunteers had a blast celebrating the Decorah eagles and Decorah itself! Despite the challenging weather, attendees enjoyed a bike ride, kayaking, a Meet and Greet at the Winneshiek Hotel, a talk at Luther, a dinner at the Hatchery, and a great boat ride on Sunday, with excellent entertainment from Big Blue Sky!
- 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 committed to explore.org. moved our chat to our website, added chat at Decorah North, and are currently looking at ways to make our website even more friendly to phones, tablets, phablets, and devices.
- 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 2018, our annual expenses are hovering around $271,600 per year. They break down like this:
- Staff and contractor compensation will cost an estimated $146,700 this year. We pay for a director, two busy regular contractors (Amy and Dave), an extremely important climber and camera installer (Mr. Arnal), two master banders, and additional people as needed. 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 $42,100. HD and 4K cameras are amazing, brilliant, and breathtaking…but they don’t come cheap. Software licensing and IT expenses continue to rise as we bring more camera operators on and do everything we can to make sure our website and streams are watchable on a variety of devices, secure, encrypted, and always up. Watchers will remember that our website was attacked in April of this year. We dealt with it, but dealing with it and preventing further attacks costs money!
- 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 (I said this last year, but it is still true)! 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. Although she discovered a rope in safe storage this fall that should keep rope expenses down in the year to come.
- 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 ($20,000 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! Was it higher than we projected last year? It was, and might be again!
- Printing and copying isn’t cheap! We’re projecting a total of $12,000 for this year. That includes a 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.