Audubon Club observations around Goose Island on 3/31/2014.

Broad swathes of water opened up Monday and migrating waterfowl are abundant along Hwy 35 in Wisconsin. Pelicans are in!

Other observations from Dan Jackson and the La Crosse Audubon group:

On Saturday, March 29th, a nice sized group met at Goose Island to look for waterfowl and other spring migrants. We saw 47 species of birds which included most of the species of ducks that are typically seen on the river during the early part of the spring migration (missed Green-winged Teal, Black Ducks, Redheads, Greater Scaup, and Red-breasted Mergansers.

The highlights were probably a female Great Horned Owl on a nest, a pair of Trumpeter Swans, and a soaring Red-shouldered Hawk.

On Sunday, the geese were really on the move. I had 10-15 flocks go over my house in the morning while I was boiling sap. These included mostly Canadas with a few Cackling Geese. The last flock of the morning was a flock of Greater White-fronted Geese that included a single Snow Goose. A nice distraction from tending the fire and gathering sap!

The first weekend in April join the Audubon group at the Genoa Fish Hatchery at 10:00 a.m. The Genoa Fish Hatchery will be giving the Coulee Region Audubon Society a tour. It will last about an hour.

Sandhill Cranes are BACK! Welcome SPRING!

Hurrah, though it’s been cold as the dickens again, the calls of the SANDHILL CRANES and Canada Geese are filling the valley again. It could be in the high 40s tomorrow, so WELCOME friends!

The river is opening up in places so some of our Eagles are moving north. Saw a group of 12 American Bald Eagles, all ADULTS, lazing overhead the other day. They were low enough that I could hear them “chittering” sociably among themselves. That was a FIRST for me!

Our summer Eagles are on their nests, and I have been enjoying watching the Decorah Eagles again on USTREAM. Check this link…

Spring is creeping in by fits and starts!!

Rich with Chickadee


We are out doing our “last time” winter activities… from ice fishing (river ice was still 20-30″ deep out of Stoddard), to snowshoeing and x-country skiing. Most precious is still hand-feeding the birds on Goose Island!

We’ve seen a few beautiful migrating hooded mergansers and Canada geese, but not Sandhill Cranes or Pelicans yet. Those of you down river can keep us posted!!

Bitter Cold Brings On Our Silent Season… and Eagle Watching!

With bitter December cold, the river is frozen and ice fishermen setting up their shanty towns on the river. Water remains open below Dams and the warm water discharges of the power plants.

This is where the Eagles are gathered now, so bring binoculars, a warm blanket, a thermos and enjoy eagle watching! Now that leaves have fallen, the numerous eagle nests along the river will be easy to spot. They may occasionally still have an adult eagle sitting atop the nest. No eggs, just taking advantage of the view!

Search both this blog and for more info on our winter eagle populations.

Audubon Report on Pool 8

Great Tundra Swans landingDan Jackson, President of the La Crosse Audubon Club has sent us a detailed report on his observations over the past weekend. This IS THE TIME to get out on the river!! Thanks so much, Dan!

A few observations:

This morning, Monday, 11/11, Ruth and I were able to get a fairly good ground count on the number of swans using the Wisconsin Islands Closed Area. The number was 22,000+ with main concentration areas in Raft Channel West, below Horseshoe and Boomerang Islands, and on the sand flats below/between seed islands along Raft Channel. Yesterday, in the Shady Maple portion of the Goose Island No Hunting Zone, I counted about 2,000 tundra swans with what appeared to be new arrivals late in the day, 500-600 Canada geese, 300-400 pelicans, and 10,0000+ ducks (gadwall, pintails, wigeon, and mallards). The Beiers Lake portion of the no hunting zone was also loaded with birds, but there is limited visibility from the overlook, hence an incomplete count.

People are learning about the large concentrations of birds visible from the overlooks and the fact we are staffing the overlooks on weekends, and responding accordingly. To that end, we had nearly 1,200 visitors this past weekend at the overlooks.

Visitors are asking how long the swans will be here. For those asking the question and mean how long will they be on the Refuge, the answer is there will be swans here until the river freezes. For those who mean how long will they be here in the numbers seen this past weekend and near the overlooks, that is a bit more complicated. A few swans may leave with this brief cold snap, but be replaced by others moving in from other staging areas on the river or elsewhere.

We are going to begin seeing swans move around the closed areas in response to the need for thermal cover, i.e., this morning’s conditions, and as their food resources are depleted, i.e., the large bed of arrowhead plants in front of the Brownsville Overlook.. Some of the latter is already occurring. On Sunday morning, one group of hunters mentioned that the area they hunted in the morning was full of swans. The swans likely fed all night and moved back to the closed area when disturbed by the hunters. This is a common occurrence, but seems to be early this year.

P1050320  Tubers the swans are eating.

Further, this morning, we saw groups of swans, and ducks, tucked into more “out of the way” areas where small patches of arrowhead are present. On calm days, the swans will likely move to open water water areas away from the islands in search of winter buds of wild celery. It also amazing to watch swans feed in the middle of the large wild rice beds.

With the forecast for warming beginning about mid-week and continuing through next weekend, we should have excellent conditions for viewing next weekend. Another large turnout of visitors is likely.

There are a number of bus tours, or other groups, scheduled to be at the overlooks this week.

Long-time river observers are saying they have never seen, or it has been a long time, since they have seen the number of waterfowl now present in lower Pool 8!

Pool 8 is Teeming With Migrating Waterfowl!

Huge flights of Tundra swans are beginning to settle into Pool 8 once more. American white pelicans are still abundant as are ducks. Look for puddle ducks with the swans at the overlook just south of Goose Island on Hwy 35. Larger ducks are gathering in huge rafts north of the Genoa Lock and Dam.

The wayside overlooks near Goose Island and Ferryville, Wisconsin, and the overlook south of Brownsville, Mn., will all be manned this weekend, and all weekends through November. DNR personnel or birding volunteers will be pleased to help you identify waterfowl and will often have spotting scopes available.

Try to be conscious of the sound of thousands of waterfowl greeting, bickering, challenging one another. Watch for eagles, of course… at water level as well as tree level. The very air is almost electric with such an abundance of wildlife!


Small Boat Cruising with BLOUNT to Belize and Guatamala

Birding as we Cruise up the Rio Dulce into Guatemala.

Birding as we Cruise up the Rio Dulce into Guatemala.

Just finishing up a fun travel feature regarding our cruise with Blount Small Ship Adventures to Guatemala and Belize. Get a quick visual preview of our cruise along the Barrier Reef off Belize, and up the Rio Dulce into the heart of Mayan country in Guatemala by visiting  our photo collection at

See ALL our travel features at



The Story of Albert D.J. Cashier

Albert DJ Cashier

Albert DJ Cashier

One of the more unusual stories from the Siege of Vicksburg came from the 95th Illinois Regiment. This regiment had a reputation as a particularly fierce group of fighters. Only 58% of the regiment had survived the previous Battle of Shiloh. Among those at Vicksburg was one they called “the fiercest of the fierce” — Albert D.J. Cashier.

When injured in a car accident in 1913, Albert (on right in photograph) refused medical help unless the doctor refused to reveal his secret… that Albert was a woman. Inevitably, the secret leaked out and a movement began to have Cashier’s name stricken from the Vicksburg monument. But in 1915, representatives of the regiment met in Chicago and signed a communication to the Illinois governor requesting that if any name was stricken from the regimental listing, then EVERY name must be stricken. Albert’s name is still listed to this day.

One knowledgeable researcher suspects that “Albert” was once engaged to a man named Albert in Ireland. When he was killed in an uprising, she committed herself to carrying on his life by following through on his dream to come to the United States. She dressed as a man, stowed away on a ship, and enrolled in the war using Albert’s name. At least 600 women are documented to have fought as men in the Civil WGRFF IV cover 033005ar.

Insight excerpt from the Siege of Vicksburg, p. 78, Vol 4 of DISCOVER! America’s Great River Road by Pat Middleton. Used with permission. All rights reserved.



Welcome, Spring!

Had our first outdoor Barbecue today! Also had our first Great Blue Heron visit the oxbow, saw another huge flock of Tundra swans moving across the sky, Ice on the river is disappearing at last. Saw American white pelicans out there the other day. The oxbow is still mostly ice. The sandhill cranes were out the other day poking around in their traditional nesting area, but since the cranes still seem to be going about in pairs, I don’t think they are nesting yet. I normally see them on their nest by April 5, with hatching about May 5 or so. Spring is finally in the air.