Young falcons banded atop 3M Cottage Grove water towerPerched 166 feet off the ground atop a water tower at the 3M Co. plant in Cottage Grove on a recent morning, Bob Anderson reached into a small, 2-foot-by-3-foot wooden nest box and plucked a trio of three-week-old peregrine falcons from their home for banding.
Perched 166 feet off the ground atop a water tower at the 3M Co. plant in Cottage Grove on a bright, blustery morning last week, Bob Anderson reached into a small, 2-foot-by-3-foot wooden nest box and plucked a trio of three-week-old peregrine falcons from their home for banding.
It’s something Anderson, the founder and director of the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah, Iowa, has done more than 500 times now since he dedicated himself to helping nurse the peregrine falcon population back to health in the late-1980s. Without the help of Minnesota industry like 3M, Anderson says that number wouldn’t be nearly as high.
“That’s what I think is so cool,” Anderson said. “It’s some common ground between industry and conservation that helped save the species, helped bring the species back.”
3M is among five Minnesota companies — Xcel Energy, Great River Energy, Cargill and Minnesota Power are the others — that have helped foster the rebounding peregrine falcon population in Minnesota and the Midwest by offering up sites for falcon nests at power plants and industrial sites. Sites like the 3M water tower in Cottage Grove are ideal, Anderson said, because of their height and proximity to rivers, which offer good hunting territory.
Anderson, a 3M employee for 17 years before he left in 1988, called industry’s falcon assist a “unique marriage” that has played a huge role in the species’ revival.
Nearly extinct a few decades ago — and nowhere to be found in the Midwest — the peregrine is a thriving species today.
“We are now seeing this huge resurgence,” Anderson said. “There are more peregrine falcons in Minnesota now than ever in history.”
The three eyasses — young falcons — banded last week at 3M marked the fourth time Anderson had made the long climb up the water tower to check in on and help track the young birds.
Paul Gerbec, an environmental engineer at 3M Cottage Grove who coordinates the plant’s Wildlife Habitat team, said the nest box was constructed five years ago at the urging of Russ Edmonds, a former 3M Cottage Grove employee who is now based at a facility in Indiana.
Gerbec said the habitat team also builds birdhouses, monitors bluebirds on 3M’s Cottage Grove campus, and is restoring native prairie on the site. The falcon nest “is one aspect of it,” he said.
Watching a video feed from closed-circuit cameras atop the water tower, a dozen-or-so 3M employees gathered the morning Anderson banded the three young falcons.
3M employees helped name the birds, too: Mac, for Rob Macintyre, a former 3Mer and colleague of Anderson’s who died last month while assisting the cleanup of north Minneapolis following a tornado there and who helped breed peregrine falcons in captivity and then reestablish them in the wild; Russ, for Edmonds, who helped get the nest box constructed; and, Harmon, for the late-Minnesota Twins great Harmon Killebrew, who died last month.
“There are going to be a lot of falcons named Harmon this year,” Gerbec said.