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Pat Middleton is the founder/publisher of the Mississippi River Home Page at www.greatriver.com and Great River Publishing which has produced quality river heritage and natural history books since 1987.

Eagle Report from Prairie du Chien…Pelicans too!

Thank you, Dennis, for a great report on where to see eagles in PDC!

Last evening there were over 200 Bald Eagles roosting in the normal
migration roost site near the Barn Restaurant north of Prairie du Chien
on Cty Rd K.  This roost is in the tree line west of the dry docked tow
boat south of the restaurant.  Very little open water was present for
feeding activity.  The small spring and open water at the Winneshiek
Marina had 12 White Pelicans that were feeding on the few dead shad seen
floating at that location. With the expected rise in the Mississippi
River water level, because of rain and snow melt, open water should be
present around the edges of Gremore Lake.  The water level was at 9.5
feet Wed. This morning it is at 11 feet and is expected to go to 17 feet
by Tues or Wed.  Water goes over the Ambro Road on the north side of
Gremore Lake at 13.4 feet.  With that amount and volume of water river
ice will be moved, or at least raised .  More open water where eagles
can feed on dead shad will be present.   Other sloughs in and around
Prairie du Chien are starting to open as well.  If the eagles and
pelicans move to Gremore Lake as they have in the past the best location
to see the birds is from the riverside parking lot of the Crooked Oar
Bar and Restaurant.  In the past 3 years over 500 eagles were seen on
and near Gremore Lake during the migration stop over they make during
mid-March.

Sandhills in the Valley, March 14, 2019

Every year the day arrives when I can say “spring has sprung in the valley,” Today was that day! 49 degrees. Sandhill cranes, redwing blackbirds, Canada geese, a pair of trumpeters, a turkey vulture, a Valley awash in snow melt.  While it seems late compared to recent arrival dates, a quick review of past Sandhill arrival dates shows that the cranes arrived right on schedule.

March 15, 2009  “Bitter cold night as late as 03/13/09. So cranes waited until we hit the 50 degree mark two days later.
March 12, 2008 “3 Sandhill cranes fly over Goose Island near La Crosse.
March 13, 2008  A Single crane flies, calling, over Coon Creek near Stoddard.   Lots of melting snow in the valley. Temp of 56.7 degrees. ”                           

March 11, 2007 “Sandhill Cranes on the islands off Goose Island Park south of La Crosse. Temps in upper 40s, two weeks after record snowfalls in Western Wisconsin, so lots of snow on the ground. March 12 the cranes are reported along Coon Creek and other valleys off the Upper Mississippi River.”                               

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

 

 

Sandhill Cranes Seem to Have Arrived!…. I think!

IMG_0189 Well, this is a first! I’m starting to hear that folks south of La Crosse are hearing Sandhill Cranes… but normally, I don’t release such reports until I confirm for myself that nesting cranes have moved in.

This year, there have been a number of interesting Sandhill Crane reports. So far, I’ve heard of 1) a group of 6 or so cranes who spent the whole winter in Wisconsin 2) cranes gathering in Madison by March 1, and finally a phone call that cranes were calling along Coon Creek south of La Crosse by March 4. But it’s been like -12 degrees, and the few minutes I could stand outside, didn’t happen to be the moments that cranes were calling.  So yes, I think they are back right on time this year. We should all be seeing them as temps warm up this next week! Once the ice begins to break up (not happening yet) Tundra Swans should be moving in.

The Story Behind the Tradition of an Annual Christmas Bird Count! Dead Birds and Christmas Joy…Huh?!

So what possessed Victorians to send Christmas and other greetings with illustrations of dead birds? One such card reads, “Sweet messenger of calm decays in peace Divine.”

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It may hark back to an archaic English celebration of St. Stephens Feast Day, on Dec 26, when folks went out and killed a robin… or a wren… and saved the feathers for good luck. Often young boys in the village would visit homes and exchange feathers for a treat!

During medieval times, Dec 26 was the only day when a wren, considered sacred, could be killed. In fact, “King Wren” was paraded through the village in its death box…  which may actually date back further to a Druid tradition when the priest-king of the tribe was sacrificed to avert disaster for the tribe. Over time, English robins replaced the wren as the symbol.

But were the Victorians really connecting dead birds to tribal druid kings? According to Chan Robbins from an Audubon Science video on Vimeo, another Christmas tradition evolved in New England before the turn of the century which involved birds and small mammals.

The townsmen on Christmas Day engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns to shoot as many birds and species as they could that afternoon. The resultant pile of feathered (and furred) quarry were sorted by species and counted. The team which had shot the most, won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. So there is the answer to why we have an annual bird count in the middle of our northern winter!

christmasrobin

English robins continue to festoon modern Christmas cards, though they are alive and nestled among poinsiettas and berries!!

With that, I would like to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas season!

Pat

New Kindle Versions of our Most Popular Steamboat Book…and a Little Something Extra!

If your favorite River Buff has become a Kindle fan, we now have the following NEW Kindle Editions available for Pre-order for Christmas gifting this year!

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“Treasure Hunting” has been one of our most requested river topics through the years. Pirates, military trails, payroll caches, old maps and steamboat wrecks have all left tales of sudden death and unrecovered treasures. In the first of our Kindle “INSIGHT Series” we  have collected a number of our previously published favorite treasure hunting stories, how-tos, and resources available to the Treasure Prospector here on the upper Mississippi River.

One Man’s Treasure” is now available for pre-order in the Kindle Store. PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE, now, just $2.99!

bright Come Hell Cover VOL 1 Kindle
Our ever-popular steamboat anthology, COME HELL OR HIGH WATER by Michael Gillespie is newly available as a quality 2-Volume KINDLE edition. Filled with historic photos, witty commentary, footnotes, bibliography, Glossary and fascinating river facts and stories. Each Volume is purchased separately. 

Volume 1 PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE.   $9.95

 Volume 2 PRE-ORDER RIGHT HERE.  $9.95

 

 

La Crosse Area Plans for Christmas Bird Count 2018

child with chickadee winterThe La Crosse Audubon group will be again sponsor The La Crosse Area Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 15th. Birders who want to participate, can contact Dan Jackson <DanJackson@lbwhite.com>

The La Crosse Area CBC is centered on the La Crosse County Courthouse and extends north to County OT, south to the southern tip of Goose Island, west to Hokah, MN, and east past Barre Mills. (See a map at: http://www.couleeaudubon.org/CBC_LaCrosse.pdf). If anyone lives within the count circle and isn’t available to help with a section, we can also use your help by having you count birds at your own feeder.

The annual Christmas bird count reminds me of the little research I did a few years past into why so many old post cards featured a dead bird. Interesting story which I will relate shortly!!!image image

Yep, Tundra Swans Are Moving!

Tundra Swans are beginning to appear in larger numbers on Pool 8. Check at the waysides south of Goose Island on Hwy 35, and south of Brownsville, MN, on Hwy 61 S.  To see historical data on our fabulous Tundra Swans, use the SEARCH Button at the top of the page!!  Look for a sunny day and take a drive along the Upper Mississippi River.  Numbers should increase throughout the rest of November as the Swans move south and then make a Eastern turn toward the East Coast.