Notre Dame counts the eating regimen of bald eagles within the nest of St. Patrick’s County Park
While the new WNIT documentary about the history of the St. Joe River premieres in parks, libraries and museums this weekend, a portal to the health of the river remains dark: the overhead “Eagle Cam” in St. Patrick’s County Park. So, to bridge the gap until the University of Notre Dame replaces the broken camera (even with a microphone to hear the birds) later this fall, how about a look at what bald eagles are eating while they are freshly hatched Raise brood?
In the spring of 2018, students combed through photos for 2.5 months – more than 26,000 images that were automatically taken every 20 minutes. And they counted the freshly flown in prey for two adults and two young eagles. The results were published in July in a science journal based in Notre Dame, the American Midland Naturalist.
It turned out that Eagles “love sushi,” says graduate student Kate O’Reilly. Fish made up 73% of the food in this nest. Not a surprise as it is only a short drive from the St. Joseph River.
The most commonly eaten fish was the Redhorse sucker – 32 of them, or a quarter of the 135 prey animals counted. On her Twitter feed (@DrKatfish), she says, “This was particularly evident in early May, which is the typical timing of her spring spawning run in the St. Joe River.”
According to the research report, a total of 13 fish species were counted, including nine American gizzard fish, seven blue gills, seven perch, seven brown / black bullheads, five steelhead fish, four northern pike and other fish, 14 of which were unable to be identified – a total of 98 fish.
Thirteen mammals were counted, almost 10% of the prey, including five muskrats and some raccoons, squirrels and a rabbit. Eighteen birds were caught, 13% of the prey, including eight American coots, two rock pigeons, a crow, a great crested grebe and a gallinule. Six turtles were eaten.
More:Stories in the WNIT film about the history of St. Joe River will surprise even experts
The eagles, she says in another Notre Dame article, “are doing the environment a lot better than we could ever do.” Gary Lamberti, a biology professor on the study, adds that no one has ever done such a thorough examination of an eagle family every 20 minutes.
O’Reilly, who co-led the study with creek and wetland ecology faculties and staff, notes that data like this helps manage the habitat so eagles can continue to thrive. Indiana was free of eagle nests from 1900 until the first recorded nest in 1988. The state now estimates 300 nesting pairs. Notre Dame data also shows that a wide variety of animals were readily available for prey, an indicator of life on these banks of St. Joe.
The WNIT movie “Then, Now and Always … The St. Joseph River Story” quotes aquatic biologist Daragh Deegan as saying he counted 85 species of fish in the river and its tributaries, a significant improvement on its polluted past. My Story Tuesday about the movie lists the premiere sites for that weekend and the 9th September airing at 8 p.m.
Wings and waves
• River Festival: This annual event returns with free paddling on the Little Elkhart River, live fish and critters and a Saturday scavenger hunt at Riverbend Park, 511 E. Warren St. (County Road 16), on the eastern edge of Middlebury. The park itself celebrates its 40th anniversary at 9.30 a.m. with the inauguration of an engraved stone. At 10 a.m., water biologist Daragh Deegan shows fish that he collects on site and that you can touch. At the “Regatta of Recyclables” you build a boat from recyclable materials, which is provided between 10 am and 12 noon, and then go down the river at noon; the prizes will be awarded at 2 p.m. Elkhart County Parks will be a live animal making show at 1:00 p.m. A free kayak raffle ends with the raffle at 2:00 p.m. There are yoga and art classes, local environmental groups with stalls, the Ethos Science-to-Go bus, and Jim the Fossil Guy with fossils and bones. A scavenger hunt involves 40 “toads” painted with a number and a word by children of York Elementary School; find all to find out the “toad ode”. Kayaks, equipment, guides, and return transport are provided for short trips from the park to the Krider World’s Fair Garden, and food is sold by King’s Barbecue and Dips on the Vine.
• Barron Lake Triathlon: This race in aid of the Racing for Steve-O Foundation, which supports sports for children across physical, mental and financial limits, takes place on Saturday morning. It offers long and short sprint triathlons for adults and competitive and non-competitive triathlons for children. It all starts on the shores of Barron Lake in Niles. Details can be found at barronlaketri.com.
• Roam like buffalo: Hike among the wildflowers in the 38-acre Burns Prairie Preserve near Galien with the Harbor Country Hikers at 10am on Saturday. The reserve is located on Mt. Zion Road 18195, south of US 12 and west of Dayton Road (also eight miles west of the US 31 bypass).
• Traffic jams in the Gibbard Bike Park: This free event returns to Mary Gibbard Park in Mishawaka on Saturday from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., where seasoned bikers can take a breath and battle for the best overall line, trick and transfer, and the highest air. You’ll ride the park’s jam-packed dirt jumps, as well as the June 5th jams, which attracted a number of seasoned cyclists. The first hour or so will be for practicing. All drivers must wear helmets. Spectators are welcome. The event could be postponed or canceled if too much rain this week prevents staff from getting the bike park in shape. Look out for the Mishawaka Park Facebook page. Gibbard is located in the very south of Mishawaka on the Dragoon Trail. To get there, take Milburn Avenue east of Ironwood Drive and head south on Somerset Avenue or Grand Boulevard.
• Everglades of the North paddle: Head to the Northwest Indiana Paddling Association for a Saturday paddling down the Kankakee River through bayous, where native hibiscus plants are now in bloom. This trip through the LaSalle Fish & Wildlife Area leads from White Oak Bayou to State Line Bayou on the Illinois border. Arrive between 11:00 am and 12:30 pm CDT at the launch site on County Road 1150 North, west of US 41, near Lake Village, approximately 64 miles south of Merrillville. The paddlers then drive to the take-out point and then take a shuttle bus (which requires a mask) back to the start. Donations are accepted. Register online via a link here in this section.
Notre Dame alumni:Olympic bronze medalist and Notre Dame graduate Molly Seidel runs the NYC marathon
• Summer astronomy: Learn to identify constellations and hear Greek and Roman tales of stars from 8 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday at Cobus Creek County Park, 8 30680 County Road in Elkhart. Snacks, make-and-take star maps, and telescope observations are offered. The cost is $ 3. Register by Friday at elkhartcountyparks.org.
• Cast iron barbecue party: Learn the basics of cast iron cooking, sample recipes and hear tips from expert chefs at this annual Elkhart County Parks event at Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol. The cost is $ 4. Register by Friday at elkhartcountyparks.org.
• Everything about bats: Orbis Environmental Consulting’s lead wildlife biologist, Jeremy Sheets, will speak about bat species in Indiana, their behavior and their economic impact on September 2 at 7:00 p.m. at St. Patrick’s County Park in South Bend. Then, eat a “bat nana split” while watching the bats exit the park’s red barn at dusk. The cost is $ 4. Registration by Monday at 574-654-3155.
Good to know
• Bass trim: In late July, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources announced it had completed crewing of striped bass and hybrid striped bass in several lakes. The 2-inch fingerlings include 3,270 hybrids that went in Worster Lake in Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty and 420 hybrids in Clare Lake east of Michigan City. They are expected to reach a fishable size of 14 inches by 2023.
• Reported in the Trib: Construction began this week on the first half of the 1.5 mile paved Coal Line Trail, specifically the portion from Lincoln Way West / Wilbur Street to the Riverside Trail, due to be completed this year. Also, a week ago in Elkhart County along Indiana 15, north of Indiana Toll Road and north of Bristol, a dead black bear was found, believed to have been killed by a car.
Follow Outdoor Adventures columnist Joseph Dits on Facebook at SBTOutdoorAdventures. Contact him at 574-235-6158 or [email protected]