Just ahead of our first major COLD spell of the season, a few dozen Tundra Swans are visible along Wisconsin Hwy 35, just south of Goose Island and La Crosse. There will also be naturalist/Interpreters on hand at the new wayside south of Goose Island. Bring your binocs and learn not only about the swans, but also an assortments of ducks! No doubt there are also Swans visible just south of Brownsville, MN.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks, numbers of Swans and migrating ducks will increase exponentially!! Have fun!!
Custom map of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area
215 The Ice Age Trail Map, Wisconsin Designed by Lisa Middleton
168 Hiking trails of Hixon Forest, LaCrosse WI
Bellevue State Park Butterfly Sanctuary
Bellevue State Park, near Bellevue, Iowa, just south of Dubuque, is located atop a 300-foot high limestone bluff with panoramic views of the Mississippi River valley and Lock & Dam 12. It also shelters the largest Butterfly Garden in Iowa.
The Garden Sanctuary for Butterflies near the South Bluff Nature Center in the Nelson Unit contains a variety of interesting displays on the plants, animals and geology of Bellevue State Park.
. This unique area contains over one hundred separate plots, each featuring plants which provide food and habitat for butterflies. A network of pathways allows visitors to walk through the garden and see a wide variety of butterflies as well as enjoy the beautiful array of flowers and the pond in the center. For more information visit the website at Butterfly Garden.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, butterflies found in Iowa are either in the process of migration or are completing one of the various stages of their life cycle. Approximately 60 species of butterfly can be expected to make their appearance at the Butterfly Garden each year. Host plants for butterflies include wild aster, ragweed, goldenrod, lamb’s-quarters, daisy fleabane, milkweed, cottonwoods, wild cherry, hackberry and willows.
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.
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!
The La Crosse Audubon Club has released its count for Christmas 2016… This year, we had 27 reports from 29 available sections and we also had 41 feeder counts. Conditions were poor, but we still were able to find just over 12,000 birds of 66 species. That included some great species that are normally unusual for this count. The best were a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and White- winged Scoters, but other unusual species included Northern Saw-whet Owl, Hooded Merganser, Red- breasted Merganser, Winter Wren, Northern Harrier, Fox Sparrow, Trumpeter Swans, and Golden Eagles. Great results on a tough day to count!! Effort-wise, we had 48 section counters and 45 feeder counters who contributed over 330 hours of effort. That is truly impressive and I want to say thanks again for your help with this year’s La Crosse Area Christmas Bird Count!!!
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!