Where to LOOK for the Birds
Insight Interview with Fred Lesher

Excerpted from Volume 1, Discover! America's Great River Road by Pat Middleton. For the personal use and enjoyment of our readers. May not be reposted, reprinted or reproduced in any way without permission.

The Mississippi River Fish and Wildlife Refuge was designated in 1924, well before the lock & dam system was developed for commercial shipping. As a result, we have a national wildlife treasure in relatively untouched river bottoms - a mecca for birds. Fred Lesher, a dedicated area birder, offers here some suggestions on where birds may be found along the Upper Mississippi River.

The TREMPEALEAU WILDLIFE REFUGE is an excellent stop. Ospreys and Double-crested Cormorants nest here. Eagles in winter, spring. Many other species may be seen.

Concentrations of winter eagles at BLACKHAWK PARK near Victory, WI. Nests visible February-March from Minnesota side along Hwy 26 in Houston County.

Eagles will be seen soaring over the bluff sides along the Great River Road in early spring. They are solitary birds with wings out flat. The Turkey Vulture is nearly as large, but soars in pairs or large groups called "kettles." Wing profile of the vultures is a distinct "V" shape.

Watch for Eagles during spring/fall migration at O.L. KIPP State Park in Minnesota. Also WYALUSING State Park near Prairie du Chien, and NELSON DEWEY State Park near Cassville. McGregor and Guttenburg, IA, for wintering eagles above and below dams where water remains open. Eagles become more abundant to the south because of milder conditions.

Large winter concentrations of eagles may be seen over open water from the public boat launch behind the Dairyland Power Plant in Genoa, WI. Great numbers of wintering eagles at Davenport, IA., Rock Island, IL, and Clinton, IA - lock & dam numbers 13, 14, and 15.

Cerulean Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers and Louisiana Waterthrush nest at BEAVER CREEK VALLEY State Park near Caledonia, MN. Kentucky Warblers nest at WYALUSING State Park, WI. Turkeys may be found on hillsides in Genoa-Stoddard area, the YELLOW RIVER State Forest near Harpers Ferry, IA, and Hwy 249 between Reno and Caledonia, MN.

A special Butterfly Garden at BELLEVUE, IA, State Park. Special plantings to attract butterflies. Excellent river views and birding at EFFIGY MOUNDS NATIONAL MONUMENT in Iowa and at EAGLE POINT Parks in both Clinton and Dubuque, IA.

Whistling swans have been renamed Tundra swans. Tundra swans migrate downriver in November and are identified in the field by straight, upright necks. At times, there may be 15,000 swans in open water between Genoa, WI, and Wabasha, MN. Rare Trumpeter Swans are being introduced into the Twin Cities in Minnesota. Organized Tundra swan watches with volunteer spotters offered at Reich's Park in Alma, WI and at Weaver Bottoms in Minnesota.

Peregrine falcons nest at Alma across from the power generating plants and at JOHN LATSCH State Park just north of Winona. Between the size of a kestrel and a red-tailed hawk. A big falcon, with sideburns. Very fast flier.

Prothonotary warblers on Shore Acres Road, along STH 14 & 61 between La Crosse and La Crescent, and south of the pool 7 dike on French Island in La Crosse.

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