Eagle Tracking In Wabasha

Last week I joined Mark Martell to aid in his quest to put more satellite transmitters on golden eagles in conjunction with the National Eagle Center in Wabasha.  It was a lovely drive down along the Mississippi, the hoar frost was thick on the trees and glittered in the sun.  He already has one on Golden Eagle 42, but one goldens movements do not tell us the whole story behind that wintering population of goldens along the Mississippi River near Wabasha, MN.

But trapping goldens is tricky business, the birds are cagey and lots of predators like the same bait as the target eagles. But still, watching a goat prairie for a day without actually trapping a golden eagle, beats any day behind a desk in my book.  I'd go into more detail, but I wrote up an article for Outdoor News which should be coming out in the next week or two.  Rob Drieslein who edits Outdoor News is also one of the hosts of KTLK Outdoors.  He asked me to call in to the show this Sunday around 5:15pm and talk some golden eagles.

Mark did help a fellow researcher named Brett Mandernack attach a transmitter to a bald eagle.  This was one bruiser of an eagle!  When she was trapped, she weighed just under 14 pounds!  We assume she is female because females are larger than males, so at that weight, it's a good guess this is a girl. She was part of a different research program to see where eagles that winter along the Mississippi go for their breeding territory.  I would guess a girl this size nests in Alaska but who knows what the transmitter will tell?

The forceps in the above photo are holding together the straps before Mark sews them together. They have to make sure the straps are snug enough to not fall loose and inhibit the eagle's movements but also loose enough to accommodate a bird's fluctuating weight.  A hood is placed over the eagle's head to help keep her calm and to also allow Mark to work in peace without the eagle waving her hooked beak around near chest. It helps the process go along faster and safer for the eagle.

Check out those talons! Speaking of eagles, March is a great time to visit the National Eagle Center.  March is their Soar with the Eagles month and every weekend they have special events planned and plenty of wild and display birds to be seen.  I'll be there this Saturday giving a digiscoping program at noon.  It's free and much our time will be spent on the lovely photo subjects around the center.  Even if you can't make this weekend, be sure to visit this month if you can.