Eagle Valley is a 1450-acre preserve along the Mississippi River privately owned and managed by Kohler Co. and Kohler Trust for Preservation. Its wooded bluffs, prairie, and river frontage are home to several nesting pairs of Bald Eagles; 87 other bird species have been documented as confirmed or probable breeders on the property. The rich and diverse habitats are also home to dozens of mammals from White-tailed Deer to Masked Shrews, various amphibians and reptiles, including Timber Rattlesnakes and Snapping Turtles, and many other species. In addition to providing an important stopover for birds migrating along the Mississippi, Eagle Valley provides a winter home for hundreds of Bald Eagles, many of them from Canada. Deep, fast-flowing stretches of the river remain open even during the coldest winter weather, providing the eagles and many other animals with a rich source of food and water during that cold, lean season.
The Eagle Valley staff has been actively researching raptor ecology since 1989. Projects include raptor migration counts, studies of Bald Eagle winter night-roost dynamics, and eagle satellite tracking. Through these efforts, a great deal has been learned and shared about the eagles that overwinter here and the ecosystem that supports them.
Over the past quarter century, there has been a dramatic return of eagles and nests to the river below. Through a solar-powered wireless system that includes a pan/tilt/zoom camera, a small solar panel (mounted well above the reach of spring floodwater), and two wireless relays – one to pass the signal from the nest to the top of the bluffs, and another to pass the signal from the bluff tops back to the research station at the valley’s head – the nest and eagle activity are available to a wide audience.
The nest we are watching is located just west of Eagle Valley on the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife and Fish Refuge in southwestern Wisconsin. The eagles at this nest have been fledging young since approximately 2007. The Eagle Valley nest camera is a joint venture between Kohler Trust for Preservation, Raptor Resource Project, Kohler Co., and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Faith Technologies was instrumental in much of the initial system installation. Personnel from all partnering organizations participated in planning and execution of the nest camera installation.
2016 will be the third year of operation for this nest camera. Despite successful fledging of young from this nest for several years prior to the installation of the camera, 2014 was a difficult year for these eagles. Two eggs were laid in late March 2014. Both chicks successfully hatched on May 3 and May 5, but one was predated by an owl on the night of May 13 (we suspect it was a Great Horned Owl, but we couldn’t be certain on species since this camera does not have “night vision” capabilities) and the other died in early June, probably from harassment by relentless swarms of blackflies and other small insects which were unusually abundant in 2014. The nest was not used by the eagles in 2015; we do not know if they built an alternate nest or simply did not breed that year.
The eagles have been seen on camera in and near the nest a few times in recent weeks, so we are optimistic that they will return for 2016.
We hope you enjoy it!