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Famed eagle returns home to Iowa

Izaak Walton Report

January 6, 2012
Blaine Kloppenborg , The Daily Freeman Journal

The eagle that gained international attention as people around the world watched her on the Internet eagle-cam has returned to roost in a tree east of Decorah. Bob Anderson, the raptor expert who filmed her with a satellite transmitter this summer, said he's surprised the eagle, known as D1, has returned to Decorah.

She gained fame on a nest-cam set up by Anderson's group, the Raptor Resource Project, which has been visited more than 213 million times this year (year 2011 and 2012). Anderson said the satellite transmitter helped researchers track D1 since she left the nest near Decorah on Aug. 14. They tracked her all the way north to the Boundary Waters in northeast Minnesota and back to Decorah.

Spring birds have always hailed the end of the winter doldrums, but few feathered friends have shattered the frigid ennui of an Iowa winter better than the Decorah eagles have this past year. The Raptor Resource Project, a group of environmentalists dedicated to preserving birds of prey populations, placed a hidden camera above a nest in a tree on a farm in rural Decorah. They put a live feed on the web and suddenly the northeast Iowa was home to a wildlife sensation not seen since Marlin Perkins hosted "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." And I was still a kid when that show appeared on black and white TV.

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More than seven million people watched the eagle mates build their family. The eagless (that's the female eagle) laid the first of her three eggs on Feb. 23. People from around the world watched as the eaglets made their individual debuts on April 2, 3 and 6.

Pretty cool, huh? Millions of people pointed their web browsers to what would become the most popular live-streaming Internet video of all time. The traffic occasionally overwhelmed the website, but the eagles became an international sensation.

Sadly, Rob McIntyre, one of the project founders, died of a heart attack in May. He was 53. But the project goes on, and the Decorah camera is live again tracking a pair of eagles as they make repairs to the nest and prep for a potential sequel in spring 2012.

Beemer's Pond - Located just west of the Webster City Airport is kind of a bellweather for me. I sort of keep running tabs on that little pond of water. It's the best reference I?know of when it comes to finding out what's happening with the spring and fall waterfowl migration. It is also home to the largest wintering flock of trumpeter swans in Iowa.

At the moment the pond is packed elbow-to-elbow and wing tip-to-wing tip with Canada geese. Throw in a few hundred mallard ducks and things get crowded.

A lot of odd-ball species of ducks and geese never did come through Iowa. Most went down south via the Missouri River or Mississippi flyaways ... areas where there were plenty of wetlands and lots of ponded water. I had the opportunity to talk with Steve Cordts, Department of Natural Resources for the State of Minnesota and surprise, surprise ... there's still lots of stragglers up there. Nearly all the open water areas have both ducks and geese that have yet to migrate south. At this rate they'll arrive down south just in time to turn around and head back north. And recent helicopter surveys in the prairie pot hole regions of Canada still show goodly numbers of ducks sitting on the ice.

It's been that kind of a year, folks. As I put this column together (Wednesday night) the TV weather forecasters are predicting 60 degree temperatures for tomorrow. Go figure.

And now ... have a good weekend.



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