Conserve Wildlife Blog

Where’s Duke?

November 12th, 2021

By Barb McKee, New Jersey Eagle Project Volunteer

August 1, 2021. It is raining and dreary out. Indoors all day wrapping up my end-of-season raptor time/mileage sheets, I have cabin fever! Tracking Duke for the last nine months has been educational and fun, and right now I know that he is nearby. For the last week he has been perching along the Raritan river–very close to my home and adjacent to his natal home, Duke Farms in Hillsborough. I have been too busy to spend as much time as I would like hiking and biking along the river nearby, while playing “hide and seek” with Duke! I check the internet link for today’s confirmation. Sure enough, Duke is perched in a wide-open field on Duke Farms land that I know well. It is only 4 miles away so I get in the car and head over there. Because it is raining, my chances of spotting him might be pretty good since eagles prefer not to fly in the rain, but rather remain on their perches without moving. He might still be there! I anticipate success. There he is! Right where I thought he would be. In a small grouping of trees in the middle of this large field there is one dead tree front and center, and Duke, fortunately, is perched on the dead tree, easily seen from the road. The photos are shot from about 100 yards away, in a light rain, but it is still a thrill to see him as it has been exactly two months since I last saw him on June 1st. blog post (Playing Hide and Seek with an Eagle)

“Duke” August 1st, 2021 by Barb McKee

On August 2, I learned that Duke had flown from that Duke Farms field back to the Delaware River and to Tohickon Creek where he spent the first week in August. As the second week began, his transmitter skipped 2 consecutive days of downloading data, but and when it finally did download, he had flown back to Duke Farms! In the coming days he seemed restless. He did not hunker down in one area, but appeared to be revisiting all of his haunts and hang-outs in central Jersey from the last nine months. He even went back to Tewksbury, flew very close to his winter “restaurant”, the game fowl pens at Flint Hill Hunting Preserve, and did a huge circle over Bedminster! He checked out Round Valley, the Black/Lamington River, Eagle Bend on the North Branch, and explored that river from Far Hills all the way to route 22. Then on August 30, a travel day again, he flew back to the Delaware! Again his transmitter did not connect with the satellite on the last day in August, but when it finally did connect, it was clear that his restlessness continued.

During the torrential rains of hurricane Ida, Duke finally hunkered down in PA on Neshaminy creek west of Washington Crossing in a rural area of woods and fields. He remained there until Sept. 6 when he flew back to the Delaware River and perched right near my Bulls Island nest. That is where he was on Sept 7. Then….his transmitter skipped three days of downloading! Finally, on Sept. 10, 72 hours of data downloaded and it showed he had been back on Tohickon Creek. This is a wild stream in a wooded gorge. There are some roads and houses here and there, but it is mostly rural–a good place for a young eagle. There would be plenty of places to perch and roost, and fish and small animals in and by the river to eat. But then, after 3:03:08 pm Eastern Daylight Time on September 10, his transmitter went dark!

Duke_Hillsborough November 24, 2020 by Barb McKee


My adventures with Duke started exactly a year ago today! blog post (Duke’s Homecoming) I learned he can hold his own against competition for food, aggressively steal from lesser raptors, find small rodents, reptiles and other prey in the smallest of creeks and valleys, fly beautifully and roost safely during rain, wind and snow. I have watched him thrive as an independent eagle in the wild, and although I sometimes worried about his choice of perches and food sources, I believe he has a great chance of reaching maturity and, in about 2 years, with his head and tail feathers mostly white, find a territory he likes and a mate with whom to build a nest. I miss knowing where he has been and miss our games of hide and seek. It has been 57 days since his last data download. I trust from the information on the site that his solar battery has failed and that Duke himself has not failed! During the coming winter I will be searching all the places I know he preferred. I believe eagles are creatures of habit. As I watched him travel around, sometimes all the way to the Chesapeake and back, I am sure that he used his eagle eyes to spot landmarks which are his “road maps” when he travels. I have plenty of reason to believe that he will return to his favorite roosts and hang out and I will have my eyes open, still searching for him. My sincere hope is that I, or someone else, will someday catch a photo of him with his E/88 band easily readable!

In the meantime, soar safely Duke, fly high and free.

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One Response to “Where’s Duke?”

  1. Helen Trammell says:

    What a delight sitting on my porch in Alabama reading about Duke’s adventures these past few months! Thank you Barbara for your love of and dedication to the Eagles. May Duke and all the 2020-202 fledglings thrive and multiply. Many thanks, Helen

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