Scanning the skies for Decorah eaglet

Tracking data has shown 10-month-old female is back in Iowa

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April 3, 2014 | 12:17 pm

DECORAH — The three little eaglets hatched in Decorah last April captured the hearts of Internet users through a live webcam feed. They’ve since left their parents’ nest, but satellite data shows that at least one of them has returned to the area.

The female known as D1 is the only one of the three being tracked through a solar power transmitter, and the man mapping her every move is Bob Anderson, director of the Raptor Resource Project.

He’s watched her progress ever since she left the nest, and in December he realized she might be heading back toward Decorah. Since then, he’s been going out every morning to look for her using GPS tracking.

“Every morning is like a Christmas present,” Anderson said, “because I get to look at those launch coordinates and see where she is.”

Anderson cherishes the time he can spend looking for D1, because for a time he wasn’t sure if he would follow the eaglet.

“Some people were really upset when I put the transmitter on,” he said, “but I knew we were going to learn something, and boy, we were really surprised.”

That’s because the eaglet did not follow the path Anderson and others assumed she’d take after leaving the nest. He said they guessed she might stay near Iowa or Illinois and follow the Mississippi River.

Instead, she flew thousands of miles, spending time in northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota, before returning to the area near her original home.

“For her to go on this huge walkabout 1,000-mile trek, then back to this natal area, is just fascinating — it really is,” Anderson said.

He suspects D1 might be staying in an area near Highland, Wadena and Decorah, because of the proximity to the Volga River at Volga State Park.

Although he doesn’t always catch a glimpse of the eaglet, he says it’s reassuring to watch her progress using satellite mapping even when she’s not in the Hawkeye state.

“The first year of life for any bird of prey is the most dangerous,” he said. “She’s made it through that, 10 months old now — I think she’s a survivor.”

Because of the success he’s had tracking D1, he hopes to put antennas on two eaglets this year to see if the siblings might stick together.

The eaglets’ parents are back in the Decorah nest and the webcam feed is once again available online. To watch them and check out more tracking data for D1, visit www.ustream.tv/decoraheagles.

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