Brief note, now is an excellent time to be observing waterfowl passing through Pool 8. We saw a pair of TRUMPETER SWANS hanging about all last week in the sloughs and just south of Goose Island (normally in twos, rather than a large group, and note the very large black bill. Wing spread can approach 10 feet!). The Audubon group confirms that indeed there are many more TRUMPETERS than normal on the Upper Missisippi this year. A small mob of PELICANS is clustering forlornly in the Bay just above Stoddard.
- Very large swan with all-black bill
- Long, sloping forehead
- © Laura Erickson, St. Louis, Missouri, February 2008
Similar Species: Tundra Swan
From the Cornell Bird Lab: “Trumpeter Swans demand superlatives: they’re our biggest native waterfowl, stretching to 6 feet in length and weighing more than 25 pounds—almost twice as massive as a Tundra Swan. Getting airborne requires a lumbering takeoff along a 100-yard runway. Despite their size, this once-endangered, now recovering species is as elegant as any swan, with a graceful neck and snowy-white plumage. They breed on wetlands in remote Alaska, Canada, and the northwestern U.S., and winter on ice-free coastal and inland waters.”
(Trumpeter Swans are also found from St. Louis to N. Wisconsin! – Pat)
Additionally, among the many ducks seen between Goose Island and Genoa, are Lesser Scaup, Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Canvas Backs, Bufflehead, and American Widgeon. Bring your bird book! My goal this spring has to get some of these sorted out with my binoculars and a little help from the Audubon Club. These are strikingly beautiful ducks!
Eagles continue to be prolific from the Twin cities south. Not unusual to see as many as 11 adults in sight on the ice. I’m also noting many juveniles still hanging about. They become dispersed once the ice melts, so enjoy them while you can. See an eagle nest? Look for the “balde” head of the adult sitting in it!
During our brief early February “summer” our Mississippi River big birds made their move to the North.
Sandhill Cranes, in.
Tundra Swans migrating north overhead in huge flocks… check.
Bald Eagles are currently everywhere… 17 on the edge of the river ice, 4 circling up ahead, 3 in a dead tree. And more on the nests! It is a great moment to be out observing the transformation to spring!
How early are the cranes this year? Several days earlier than my historic “early date” of Feb 23, 2005! Here are some more arrival dates:
Feb 18, 2017
Feb 23, 2005 (a good two weeks earlier than normal!)
March 15, 2003
March 13, 2002
March 13, 2001
March 16, 1999
March 1, 1998
March 10, 1997
March 13, 1996
March 18, 1993
April 4, 1992
March 9, 1988
March 17, 1987
Finally, check out this river snapshot! Could that be an adult Golden Eagle confronting an adult Bald Eagle? And what about the immature on lower right? Is it Bald or Golden? I’d love your opinion!
Get out there and enjoy before the next storm hits!
Feature story by Pat Middleton may not be used without written permission from Great River Publishing
Birders craving an excuse to “head on down to the river” during the months of December through March, take note! The major concentrations of American bald eagles in the entire continental U.S. now winter near the open waters at the Locks and Dams of the Mississippi River.
From Red Wing, Minnesota, to Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, organized public eagle watches are celebrating one of our nation’s brightest environmental come-backs.
The American Bald Eagle is nothing if not resilient. In the 1960’s Rachel Carson drew attention to their devastating decline with her report that on the entire Mississippi River her counters found only 59 eagles. The effects of DDT, habitat destruction, and human persecution had taken a toll on a population, which once counted many thousands on the Upper River. The few remaining birds tended to winter near Union Dam in Keokuk, Iowa, where fish stunned by the turbulence and aeration of the water offered eagles easy foraging. Opposite Keokuk, along the Illinois shore, large trees, sheltered by the Iowa bluffs provided excellent perching and roosting sites.
Although DDT was banned in 1972, it wasn’t until 1985 that people started to notice a true increase in the eagle population. Pat Schlarbaum, at the time a Fish & Wildlife Specialist with the Iowa DNR, thought it was time to celebrate.
“The Keokuk Eagle Watch Days were really instigated as a celebration of the success of our wintering population of eagles,” Pat says. “We had no idea the notion would catch on along the entire river. The Keokuk Watch now features nearly 500 wintering eagles, volunteer spotters, donated binoculars and spotting scopes. It’s exciting enough to draw viewers from around the nation. In addition, the public lectures and presentations by DNR personnel, volunteers from Raptor Rehab Centers, and the Army Corps of Engineers have provided our agencies with an outstanding opportunity to educate the general public about raptors, our birds of prey. Volunteers bring not only live eagles, but owls, hawks, and even peregrine falcons to the presentations.” (continued below, Click CONTINUE READING)
Thank you to my favorite photographer for his first Tundra Swan alert:
“After a long and arduous wait the Tundra Swans have finally arrived in number on Pool 8 of the Mississippi River. (Usually I am busy photographing along the MS during the whole month of November, but not this year.)
Click this blue link to Read Alan’s Swan report for 2016.“
Enter Swans in the Search Box at the upper right to pull up historical arrival dates back to 2008! Interested in Eagles? Enter Eagles in Search Box… or anything else you are curious about!!
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Reports of perhaps 1000 Swans resting off the Brownsville, MN, overlook. Saw about a dozen south of Goose Island at the overlook. Large numbers of Pelicans as well! Naturalists were available with spotting scopes. Thanks, folks!
A few days ago, my Tundra Swan search on the Mississippi River south of La Crosse came up empty. Today, small groups are out there south of Goose Island and most likely Brownsville, MN, as well.
If you spot Swans, let us know!!
For those who might be interested in a guided Swan watch, the La Crosse Audubon Society is offering a Swan watch on Sunday Nov 13 at noon. Here is the full story.
We will be holding our annual Tundra Swan field trip on Sunday November 13 at Noon. We will meet at the Kwik Trip in La Crescent. It is the one at the only stop lights in La Crescent on the corner of Hwy 14 and 16. The address is 319 south 3rd. We will be parking on 3rd street behind the Kwik trip and be leaving from there and making a few stops before the final destination being the Brownsville overlook. We normally go about 2 hours, but as always your free to come and go as you please.
Today and the week to follow is a great time to explore the coulees, streams and river valleys, bluffs and trails of the Driftless Region of Western Wisconsin, NW Illinois, SE Minnesota and and NE Iowa!
Pelicans are mobbing up into great clusters of pristine white on the Mississippi River. Bald Eagles are abundant… we saw several pairs just hanging out in nests, enjoying the day as much as we were! Can’t say I’ve seen Tundra Swans as yet…which is fine with me as they remind us a frozen river is not far behind!!
The river has finally dropped a bit, so fishing has picked up. Fishing Barges and boat landings we saw were busy.
The Fishing report from Clements Fishing Barge: “November 3rd: Fishing has been pretty good for walleye and sauger. White bass are done and the perch scarce. Most fish are coming in on minnows or hair jigs. Guys are still using 1 oz jigs, water is still higher than normal, but fish are in.”
Enjoy the weekend!
Mississippi River Ribbon Maps
Story is adapted by Pat Middleton, www.greatriver.com, from an article by Bob Mullen, for The Paddlewheel newsletter published by the Golden Eagle River Museum, St. Louis, Missouri
(Left) Authentic Historic Ribbon map with Winder, sized for use on the boat.
Imagine a map of the Mississippi River that shows all of the cities and towns along the river and all the landings where a steamboat might stop.
Make the map about three inches wide and in one continuous strip showing the entire river from the Gulf of Mexico to its source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. If you imagined correctly, you would have a map that is about eleven feet in length, like a long streamer or ribbon. Now roll up the map to a couple of inches in diameter and put into a wooden cylindrical container that can easily fit into your pocket!
© Pat Middleton… To see picture captions, hold your cursor over photos.
Recent landslides after rains of 9-11 inches have many of us reminiscing about past experiences of landslides, rockslides, and flooding along the Mississippi River. Below is my own memory from very similar flooding in 2007.
Enter FLOOD in the Search button to bring up an interactive map that shows flooding at any moment along America’s major waterways as well as stats and Chronologies from previous years..
August 20, 2007
“Mom, you missed the HUUUgest Storm!”
“Mom, you have to hear what’s happening. I’ll read it right from the newspaper!”
Let us celebrate with historic French maps! Click on the maps to read detailed histories from Great River Arts… Lisa Middleton, Map Artist.Pause the curser over the map image and a magnifying glass with allow you to study the maps!!
We will do a different century through this coming week! First, the 18th Century.
Les Etats Unis 1765 (approx)
Les, Etats Unis, detail of Upper Mississippi River… “The Source of the River is Unknown..”
Ft Beauharnois near today’s Frontenac Minn
1731, De L’Isle’s CARTE DE LA LOUISIANE… With Lake Pepin Named on the Upper Mississippi River…. name requested by King Louis 14th!