What a difference a month makes! Temps are settling in the 40s one week, 70s next, and then back to 40s! Snow accumulates, then melts, then falls again. Our great Mississippi rises, then falls, then floods! Just now, the crest is slipping from La Crosse into Iowa, but hover close to moderate flood levels everywhere.
Many parks are still closed, but birds are still moving along the Mississippi River flyway. They are, however, moving in fits and starts along with inclimate weather and high water. Their one necessity is the availability of food along the route. With another round of nice weather approaching Wisconsin and Minnesota, birds should be back on the move!
Our Sandhill nest is full of activity as the eggs hatched on April 29 – about a week early. Eagles are busy with their own fledglings, so check out nests for the white heads of adults busy with bringing food to the nests. Egrets and Great Blue Herons have arrived and are visible in ponds and sloughs not directly on the flooded Mississippi River. White pelicans also are checking out the smaller wetland ponds along the flooded river. We see them frequently.
Riverboats, including the Twilight, the newly restored Julia Belle Swaine, and the La Crosse Queen are all eager to start their seasons “come hell or high water!”
I will be posting several links just to remind you of what you can find on our Mississippi River at this time of year, and also on greatriver.com While I no longer post daily, our archives are filled with seasonal information!! Use the Search Button above or search through our CATEGORIES! And Happy Spring!
Between thunderstorms, Winter Snow Warnings, and now Sunshine! I’ve been wondering what the response of our (mostly) migratory waterfowl would be over the course of the last day or two. Viewing has been great from Goose Island south to the Bay immediately north of Stoddard, along Hwy 35. Big white swans on their own in pairs are most likely Trumpeter Swans, while the migratory Tundra Swans will be visible in large numbers. If you see a thick cluster of large white birds, check closely for the large bill, heavy body and short neck of the pelicans.
All the waterfowl have been passing through for 2-3 weeks, as well as the mass of migratory ducks. Bring your bird guide to ferret out the many species of Dabbling (shallow water) ducks and Diving ducks (bigger, deeper areas) you are bound to see. Bald Eagles are abundant and Sandhill Cranes are pretty much settled into their nesting territories now and are busy calling to one another.It’s a wonderful time of new life on the river!
This is just to let your know that while White Pelicans still abound, they are clustered up in tight pods wherever they can get out of the wind. Check your favorite Eagle nests…those I like to watch all still have adults in them, but I did have a report that during one of our sleet storms a nest was abandoned. No Tundra Swans, of course, but there are Trumpeters! Walked through Goose Island and many of our spring waterfowl are still here. Eagles are abundant, indeed. Sandhill Cranes on their nests. Beaver, muskrat, even herons are out and about. Find them sheltering from the wind and looking for some of the warmer weather forecast for next week.
Ice has begun to clear from the Mississippi River, and like clock-work, our puddle ducks, diving ducks, White Pelicans, Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes and Tundra Swans have begun the great move northward. About the 5th of March, we were already hearing the Cranes and the Tunda Swans. This week, the great white Trumpeter Swans have begun passing our porch windows into the small ponds and creek of the valley. For the past four days, large pods of White Pelicans are clustering all along the river from Stoddard to Goose Island. Sandhill Cranes are now establishing their territories and making a rukus!
Except for a sloppy snow day today, river birding has been great. As the weather clears up visit the many roadside rest areas along Highway 35 in Wisconsin. Bald Eagles are abundant–a couple dozen at a sweep of the eye, clustered along the floating ice sheets and beside the big black nests. Happy Spring!!
Now is the time to check out Pools 7 and 8 for abundant eagles and Tundra Swans! Swans will leave just before the ice begins forming in the backwaters. Now that leaves are gone, the Bald eagles and their great nests are highly visible in the bare trees.
Falling leaves this year have revealed more huge EAGLE NESTS along the Upper Mississippi River than I have ever seen! Between Winona and La Crosse, yesterday, we spotted 6-7 at regular intervals. This is a great time to spot the nest you want to watch for nesting activity early next spring. Some of the nests still had adult birds hanging about.
The seed islands north of Stoddard have been crowded this week with pelicans gathering for the trip south. With November just around the corner, and our first frosts already in the air, it’s time to start watching for Tundra Swans! I heard from Al Stankevitz that he has seen a very few towards the center of the pool at Brownsville, Mn. So be on the lookout for the long white necks of the Tundra Swans. In a few more weeks we should have many thousands!!
Just a reminder, too, that we have an extensive BIRDING section in the Mississippi River Home Page!
Please use the REPLY link to update our fellow birders on your observerations! This will be a spam-free way to keep one another posted on birding along the Mississippi River!!
My husband woke me up early today to look at Eagles on the website, www.iwishicouldfly.com by Alan Stankevitz of La Crescent, Minnesota. Wonderful photography of not just eagles, but a long list of bird photos… including a very clear shot of a red-winged blackbird, wings folded, simply riding on the back of a redtailed hawk. His photos always include something a little unexpected! Alan is passionate about his art, but he is also generous about sharing tips on equipment and offers a journal with highlights from his bird shoots.