Wet and Wild

     Holy buckets of rain fell last night.  I’m not sure how much total rain we received but the puddles this morning are full!  By midnight over a half of an inch of rain had fell and it didn’t sound like it let up all night long.  Have no fear by the time the weekend is here the forecast is calling for sunny, clear skies and temperatures reaching 69 degrees again.  Perfect for paddling and enjoying the Boundary Waters.

     The wild side of today’s blog entry is the exciting news that Clearwater Lake on the Gunflint Trail has nesting Peregrine Falcons.  Read more about them below.

Peregrine Falcons Nest Once More in the Boundary Waters Superior National Forest

By Melissa Grover, Biologist, SuperiorNational Forest

Peregrine falcons are nesting once more in the SuperiorNational Forest’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota.  The efforts of numerous people and agencies have allowed the falcon population to expand into this wilderness settinglast known to have been occupied in 1964.  This successful project in northeastern Minnesota was part of a nation-wide program to restore peregrine falcon populations after they plummeted due to the effects of the pesticide DDT.

Many individuals and organizations contributed to the reestablishment of the peregrine falcon across the eastern and mid-western United States. During the 1980s, biologists on the Superior National Forest worked with the mid-west restoration leaders Patrick Redig, of The Raptor Center of the University of Minnesota; and Harrison Tordoff, Bell Museum of Natural History and Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, University of Minnesota, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and falconers; along with assistance from the National Park Service, the Nature Conservancy, Audubon Society, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Minnesota DNR to release young peregrines back into the wild.

Between 1984 and 1988, captive bred peregrine chicks were nurtured in and released from boxes placed on cliffs in two locations on the North Shore of Lake Superior and one on Isle RoyaleNational Park. These artificial nests (hack boxes) are exposed to the environment on one side, yet barred so the chicks are protected and maintained until they are almost ready to fly. Forest Service personnel selected, developed, and managed the Tofte hack site within the SuperiorNational Forest.

Forest Service wildlife biologist Wayne Russ, who oversaw the release effort in Tofte says, “We cared for, released, and monitored a total of 23 falcons during 1984, 1985, and 1986. I consider this the highlight of my career to have helped bring the peregrine falcon back to northern Minnesota.”   The release of these young peregrines at sites along the North Shore of Lake Superior contributed to the success of the nation-wide effort to restore these avian masters to their former habitat. The peregrine falcon was removed from the Federal Endangered Species List in 1999. Peregrines have been successfully nesting along the NorthShore since the early 1990s, without the help of biologists, although currently about 12 nest sites are being monitored each year for nesting activity and success.

In July 2007, US Forest Service wilderness rangers Rick Brandenburg and Ellen Hawkins spotted two peregrines flying near the cliffs of ClearwaterLake in the BWCAW.  The birds eluded efforts to relocate the pair in 2007.

Early in August of 2008, peregrines were again seen near ClearwaterLake’s cliffs. This time a crew of Forest Service wilderness rangers and biologists pooled equipment and time to check on the birds. With the use of the ranger’s boat and the biologist’s binoculars and spotting scope, three peregrines were found to be flying along the cliffs and out over the lake.

During observations on 4 different days, Melissa Grover, a US Forest Service wildlife biologist, observed the falcons and verified that that one of the peregrines was a young-of-the-year, newly hatched somewhere near Clearwater Lake.  The adult peregrines included a mature adult with dark slate blue plumage and a one-year-old bird molting into adult plumage. Food begging activity, where a juvenile bird or one of the mated pair begs for food from the other adult, was observed.

The success of this pair of peregrine falcons represents the cumulative efforts of many scientists to make sure that this amazing animal continues to thrill the skies and grace the cliffs of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the rest of the SuperiorNational Forest.