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!
February 17-20 Great Backyard Bird Count Bird watchers of all ages count birds to create a real time snapshot of where birds are. To learn more and participate in this citizen science project, visit their website at: http://gbbc.birdcount.org
March 19 – Mississippi River Waterfowl Field Trip. Dan Jackson will lead a waterfowl viewing field trip on Saturday, Meet at 8 a.m. at the entrance to Goose Island. We will head south and look for waterfowl and other
early migrants as far as Genoa or Rush Creek and finish around noon. The trip is free and open to everyone.
April 8 – Annual Midwest Crane Count – 5:30 a.m.-7:30 a.m. The Annual Midwest Cr
ane Count is one of the largest citizen-based wildlife surveys in the world. One of the primary purposes of the Crane Count is to monitor the abundance and distribution of cranes in th
e Upper Midwest. The Crane Count is organized by county in Wisconsin and portions of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota. Scott Puchalski will coordinate La Crosse County this year. Other area counties are also looking for volunteers.
Past participants will receive an email from Scott in early April inviting you to participate again. If you have not counted before and would like to join the count, please send Scott an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and he will help you get started. More information on the Crane Count can be found at: www.savingcranes.org.
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!
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!