The Minnesota Zoo is well known for its 485 acre facility in Apple Valley, Minnesota – just minutes away from the Mall of America. However people may be less familiar with the amazing work the Zoo does outside of Minnesota. The Zoo’s Conservation Advisory Team and the Minnesota Zoo Foundation have been sending Zoo staff around the world for years with the Ulysses S. Seal Conservation Grant. This grant allows staff to help support conservation projects they are personally passionate about and even participate hands-on in the research, if possible. Since 2005, this grant program has supported six separate grants to the Midwest Peregrine Society.
The morning of June 5, 2014, Karla Anderson and myself, Jenny Prom, started our day before 7:00 a.m. We joined Jackie Fallon (Midwest Peregrine Coordinator), for a drive to start our 12 hour day.
Our first stop was in Mankato, where we met up with the Department of Transportation (DOT) highway crew. We coordinated our efforts with bridge inspection day, as they were able to help us get to the peregrine chicks under the Mankato Bridge. Without their help and equipment, we wouldn’t have been able to access these chicks. A big thank you goes out to them each year.
Two healthy female chicks were found, processed and banded, then placed back under the bridge. And off we went to meet our climbers at John Latsch State Park near Winona.
Faith Cliff in John Latsch State Park is a about a 25 to 30 minute climb almost straight up. I found it the most challenging of all our hikes, yet so satisfying when we reached the top. This year we met up with DNR staff, faculty and students from St. Marys University, and a group from the conservation corps. The corps were working on park improvement and we were lucky to have them tag along for today’s banding, as they volunteered to help us carry our climbing packs and supplies up the back side of the cliff.
Two more female chicks were banded, as Jackie explained the history of peregrines in Minnesota and why we continue to monitor their success to the group. The climbers returned the chicks to the side of the cliff and our group started the decent to the ground.
This was a good example of how we have to monitor nest sites to determine egg laying, incubation, and hatch to determine the age of the chicks. It is important to band chicks at a younger age at nest sites that don’t contain them well, like a bridge arch or building ledge. Chicks that are over 25 days are more prone to “run” when retrieved. So the chicks at Mankato Bridge were approximately 20 days old, while the chicks contained safely in a hole in the cliff side were older at 24-25 days.