Jim and Chris Weaver, David Freda and Patricia McAleer, Steve Van Zandt, Bob
Collins, Alan and Vencie Beske, North American Falconers Association
Lifelong Raptor
by Tom Meyer, President Cedar Grove
Ornithological Research Station
After a long battle with cancer, Daniel
D. Berger passed away at his home in
South Pasadena, CA on December 27,
2016. Dan was 85 years old. Dan was a
lifelong raptor researcher. He traveled the
continent from the Dry Tortugas to the
artic learning everything he could about raptors.
Dan was born in Milwaukee WI where as a teenager he joined the John
Muir bird club. With a strong interest in falconry and birds of prey
he and fellow bird club member Helmut Mueller took a trip to Cedar
Grove WI where they had learned that the Milwaukee Public Museum
ran a hawk trapping station. Finding the place abandoned the two
young men took ownership. In 1950 Dan began his unprecedented
run, trapping raptors at the Cedar Grove Ornithological Research
Station (CGORS) for 65 years. Over 43,000 hawks,
falcon, eagles and owls have been trapped and banded at
CGORS. Dan has only missed three fall hawk migration
seasons since 1950.
While studying at the University of Wisconsin –
Madison, Dan met another raptor enthusiast, Jack
Kaspar. Jack joined the crew at Cedar Grove and
continued until his death in 2015. In those early years
it was Jack that had a car and was able to provide
transportation between Madison and Cedar Grove.
Dan and Helmut did surveys on the Mississippi river for nesting
peregrines. Surveys were suspended when no nesting pairs could be
found. When peregrines returned to the cliffs along the Mississippi so
did Dan. Until the age of 80 Dan was still involved banding cliff nesting
peregrines on the Mississippi River with Bob Anderson.
Dan also worked for over a decade with Jerry Craig and the Colorado
Division of Wildlife banding peregrine falcons on cliffs in the Rocky
Through Joe Hickey at UW-Madison Dan was
hired to do peregrine falcon surveys. Dan and a
crew checked all known nesting sites east of the
Mississippi and north into Canada and found no
active nests.
It was through Helmut Mueller that Dan met
Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom. Dan joined
these pioneers in the field of raptor research on
many different projects including northern harrier
and snowy owl research.
During the 1950’s and 60’s Dan and Helmut were also banding the few
osprey and bald eagles that could be found in north central Wisconsin.
Untold numbers of young aspiring raptor researchers were mentored
by Dan. Many of our raptor researchers throughout the country today
have at one time or another passed through Cedar Grove.
Dans legacy will continue through his contributions to raptor research.
He will be missed at Cedar Grove. We will miss his smile, his laughter
and especially his stories.
Dan’s Recognitions
Dan’s legacy will continue through his contributions to raptor research.
His smile, laughter, and especially his stories will be missed.
Partners in Falconry
by: David C. Freda
My memories of Dan Berger take me back to the early seventies. As
falconer in Wisconsin, it was only a matter of time our paths would
cross. Through falconer Dave Evans and bald eagle researcher Chuck
Sindelar I was asked to participate at Cedar Grove in the fall and
became actively involved.
Spring of 1972 I worked as a gabboon helping Chuck Sindelar band
young bald eagles upon returning to Cedar Grove that year, Chuck had
opportunity to tell Dan about an experience I will never forget and am
fortunate to be alive today to tell the tale. Chuck Sindelar, Dave Evans
and I were at Mann Lake in northern Wisconsin banding the young
bald eaglets atop a 93’ pine. When at the top, I grasped a dead branch
and fell to the ground, missing all
branches as I came down. Breath
knocked out of me, dead silence as
Dave and Chuck ran up, they were
astonished to see I was still alive.
Chuck shared this story with Dan
at which time Dan entertainingly
coined me as “Free-fall Freda. The
nick name stuck and I carry it with
me today as well as all my annual
Cedar Grove experiences.
I lost track of Dan through
the years and unsuccessfully tried to locate him, researching his
whereabouts only in Wisconsin. It was through his calling me we
finally reconnected. Astonishingly, I discovered he had been only an
hour away in South Pasadena during the years I had been Southern
California. I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to
reconnect with him and spend quality time visiting. We recounted our
days together while at Cedar Grove, laughed, looked at old photos,
newspaper articles, and shared fond memories of friends, events and
laughed some more.
Dan was very instrumental in encouraging me with my deep interest
in natural history, birds of prey, my career as an artist, metalsmith and
jeweler. I am grateful to have had an opportunity to express to him
how his personal drive influenced me. He will be genuinely missed.
Reminiscence of Dan Berger
By Jerry Craig
Many folks identify Dan Berger with the fall raptor migrations
at Cedar Grove, Wisconsin where he ran a banding station
most of his life. However he also contributed importantly to
early knowledge of peregrine falcon population status when
he and Chuck Sindelar inventoried known nest sites in the
eastern United States in 1964. I first met Dan when he showed
up the spring of 1974 to assist Jim Enderson and me with our
preliminary peregrine survey of Colorado. We immediately hit
it off and Dan became integral to our peregrine monitoring and
recovery program through out the 1970’s and 80’s . Dan was my
annual partner for fifteen years arriving every March and heading
out around the end of July. During those years ‘Mr. Berger’
became a member of the Craig family. He shared in the raising of
three daughters and their various pets including rats, gerbils and
a family skunk. Regular attendance at dance recitals and birthday
parties was expected. We made repeated visits to canyons,
escarpments and gorges throughout the state. Many long sleep
deprived hours were spent on the road often driving through
the night to deliver wild eggs to The Peregrine Fund’s Fort
Collins facilities for incubation. The State’s fostering program
was intense and time consuming. It required hours of tedious
observation of nesting pairs, hiking onto cliff tops, rappels into
nest ledges, removing eggs, transferring them into portable
incubators, and long drives to The Peregrine Fund. When captive
hatched young were available, the sequence was reversed. There
were some rappels we just didn’t like. They were scary, so Dan
and I would take turns, the second climber taking confidence
from his partner. If I had made the first rappel to remove eggs,
Dan made the next rappel to return chicks. The next year we
reversed the order. Dan was an important contributor during
a critical time when Colorado experimented with last ditch
actions to procure and hatch thin-shelled eggs and foster captive
nestlings back to the wild. I doubt that our efforts would have
been as successful without Dan and they certainly would not have
been as enjoyable.