Monthly Archives: October 2017

October Meanderings from Visitor Services Mgr Pam Steinhaus


This will be a new endeavor for me. My goal is to write once a month on different activities that is happening on or around the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, Savanna District.

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is right around the corner.  Where has the year gone? When, I was young, I couldn’t wait until I was …. (fill in the blank). My grandma always said, “Don’t wish years to come quickly for they will speed right past you”. Boy was she right.  It just seemed like we just started our 5th season of the Jr. Stewards program, but in reality were almost done. We have one more session, which is an owl prowl on November 4. Nineteen youths, ages 9 – 15 had an amazing year of learning. Searching for ornate box turtles on the Lost Mound Unit; Traveling to Genoa National Fish Hatchery at Genoa Wisconsin; Pollywoggin for mussels in the Mississippi River were a few of the highlights. I’m excited to start planning for next year.

In May, we left the Trio Eagle Nest with both Valors tending and teaching the two fledglings how to be on their own.  Both were successful in leaving the nest and now are experiencing all the growing pains that eagles must face. Hopefully, they have learned all they need to survive their first winter. For those that are still asking about Hope, she has never been found and we have considered her MIA. We and the Valors have moved on and are looking forward to a new year. The questions that we had at the end of the nesting season were; will the Valors attract a new female, will they split or will they abandon the nest site.

Let’s look at a question that is often asked, do they mate for life? Generally, yes. Eagles engage in significant courtship and pair bonding behavior. Once a pair has succeeded in breeding, the pair will likely remain together for many years. However, if a mate dies or does not return to the nesting site for the breeding season, studies show that the surviving eagle (in this case, both males), generally will find a new mate very quickly. The remaining mate will likely use the existing nest with a new mate because of eagles’ strong nest site fidelity.

September 1st we received the answer that we were hoping for. A new female was spotted with both of the Valors. We have been able to capture a few photos to see that she is a young adult. You might be thinking, how can you tell? She still had a few dark feathers on her head at that time the photo was snapped. Periodically, we have spotted them bring sticks and adding them to the nest. The nest building activity is an essential part in pair (trio) bonding.

We, along with thousands of eagle viewers around the world will be eager to watch as the next chapter unfolds. The public cam will be online November 1st.  There will be a time when the cam will be down for maintenance, for we haven’t been able to complete the work due to high water. (Another day on the river)

Making plans to visit the Mississippi River for some winter eagle viewing?  The Migration Cam is a great tool to help you determine when to visit. Generally, we start seeing Bald Eagles arrive in December at the Lock and Dams. This varies due to winter conditions north.  The one question that I get asked a lot is, when is it a good time to watch eagles in the winter.  The first thing you need is cold weather to produce ice in the backwaters and snow to cover up the carrion (dead animals) in the uplands. This pushes them to the lock and dams where the river remains open. Shad and other fish get stunned as they go through the rollers and makes easy pickings for hungry eagles.  This cam is located at Lock 13, north of Fulton, IL and is a great spot to watch these majestic birds capture and/or steal their lunch.  Currently the cam is viewing the river, but as the eagles arrive we will zoom in to their favorite roosting tree on the Iowa shore.

Summer and Fall we are busy gathering data on the Monarch Butterfly. (More on that next year) In July, we start bring them inside to raise and release. Towards the end of August we begin tagging the migratory generation. This year we tagged 78.  I have been tagging monarch butterflies for 11 years with hope that one day one of our monarchs will be found in Mexico. We finally got our first one. If you ever come across a monarch with a tag, please report it to It’s important that we track their migration patterns.

Life is too short, take a break and enjoy the beautiful fall. Until next time …..   Pam