Now that our Tri-State bluffs are clad mostly in the deep browns of persistent oak foliage, and the first measurable snow has sprinkled down, we are seeing the Tundra swans winging their way into Pool 8 once again! It’s always one of my favorite birding seasons. As is normal, we not only have elegant Tundra swans resting and feeding, but large “mobs” of American white pelicans are gathering. Migrating ducks also form vast rafts…puddle ducks in more sheltered areas; diving ducks in open water upriver of the locks and dams. Check out the rest area near Brownsville, MN, and the open water south of Goose Island in Wisconsin. The highway pulloffs allow parking and offer scopes and often volunteers to help explain why the swans stop in Pool 8 and what other migrating waterfowl might be identifiable. Eagles are frequent and will become even more so in November!!
Had the great joy this morning of seeing thousands of pristine white Tundra Swans along Wisconsin’s Hwy 35, just to south of Goose Island! The sky was full of flying swans as well as swans filling the ponds. When I returned 1/2 an hour later, the skies were empty and there were fewer swans on the water.
“So where did they go?” I asked another birder who was panning with his scope.
“Did you notice that the wind changed direction and picked up, since 11 a.m. ? That’s what some of them were looking for. They’ve already resumed their migration to Chesapeake Bay.”
I was also curious as to what he saw in the scope. “Any gray cignets (juveniles)?” He said, yes, a few, but indeed most were adults and most were not family groups. The first drop of migrating swans is normally the single swans rather than swans traveling with juveniles.
Finally, make a grand journey THIS WEEKEND along the Great River Road between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dubuque, Ia. In addition to Swans in the pools north of Genoa, American Bald Eagles are migrating and we are flush with both our resident eagles and the eagles moving down from the north (more on this in a later piece). Remember to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.
Fall Color will be in its waning weekend the next several days. Oaks are a rich rust color and some of the late coloring trees are still coming into color (it’s all in the genes!)
So hit the road!! There is lots to see! and don’t forget your copy of Discover! America’s Great River Road by River Author, Pat Middleton... your guide to eagle watching, regional history, Treasure Hunting, commercial fishing, and more!!! Order your copy of each of the four volumes which lead travelers from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico by CLICKING HERE!
Had a note yesterday from one of my favorite bird photographers, Alan Stankevitz. He reported the amazing sight of seeing a 1000 Swans or more drop out of the sky onto Pool 8 at Brownsville, Minnesota…
“While spending a splendid afternoon today at the Brownsville Overlook (Hwy 26, 3 miles south of Brownsville, MN) there was a sudden fall-out of well over 1,000 Tundra Swans that dropped from high altitudes and landed on Pool 8. At first, they were just faint white specs way off in the distance, but within a few minutes they were beginning to land. What an incredible sight!
“I would estimate there are well over 10,000 Tundra Swans now on Pool 8 already.”
“I tried to capture the sight of the swans in the photo at left, but it doesn’t do it justice! The entire sky was filled with glittering swans.”
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.
As we drove Minnesota’s Great River Road from Red Wing to La Crescent this weekend… “indicator species” at various waysides highlighted the arrival of Tundra Swans!
Such clusters of humans with binoculars and cameras announce the “swan song” of 2011. Best viewing of Tundra Swans seemed to be right along HWY 61 just north of Minnieska, Minnesota (Weaver Bottoms) and again just south of Goose Island in Wisconsin. No doubt the Swans are also clustered just outside of Brownsville, Minnesota, and perhaps just north of Alma, Wisconsin at Reich’s Lake.
A word of warning though… I saw two men standing on the railroad tracks engrossed in watching an American Bald Eagle soaring up above.
There is a very real possibility that when engrossed in viewing wildlife, one would never hear the train coming until it is simply too late. Stand well off the railroad tracks!!
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!!