Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Beautiful Tundra Swans

Mr. Science and I headed down to the "Big River", the Mississippi, yesterday for a day of birding. There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We did, however, have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.





Here, on a backwater near Weaver, we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.


With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!


I took a video with my little point and shoot camera, I wanted to let you hear the swans. I estimated their were about 5,000 in the immediate area. There have been well over 100,000 during peak weeks of the migration. Unfortunately, Blogger didn't like it.
Darn!

16 comments:

  1. Absolutely breath-taking. I can only imagine how great it would be to see them in person.

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  2. i didn't see a video posted, but i bet it was really cool to see these flocks!

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  3. Wow! That is an impressive sight. I would love to see them in person.

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  4. I would have loved to have been there in person. Wonderful photos though. Do have a great Thanksgiving.

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  5. Lovely! I'm hoping to head east next month for wintering waterfowl in the Sacramento Delta....

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  6. Nature can be so surprising. White pelicans from the West winter here, but the swans do not come here to our huge never frozen impoundments such as Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. I have seen snow geese in the numbers you describe at Reelfoot Lake in West Tennessee.

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  7. Wow, what a sight to see (and sound to hear, I gather). Glad to hear man is trying to undo the damage.

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  8. You must have been in heaven, Ray! Such beautiful birds.

    Happy Thanksgiving to you and Mrs. Troutbirder. :)

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  9. Darn indeed as I wanted to hear the swans. An even nicer thing would be to see 100s of bald eagles. Incredible. Happy Thanksgiving to you! P.S. I like your source for natives:)

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  10. I am so glad to see that the DNR and the Army Corps of Engineers are doing the right thing for the migrating birds. It's fairly rare to read or hear something good about the A C of E!

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  11. Oh. Wow. Yes, this is definitely on my Must See list. Swans are such elegant birds. There's something very spiritually up-lifting about a flock of swans flying overhead.

    Very good to see some beneficial environmental alternations going on - acknowledging the past wrongs and doing something to restore. It gives a little hope, doesn't it.

    Blogger & I seldom get along re my posting my videos either!

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  12. Wow! 5K swans must have been an amazing sight. I've seen migrating swans but never in that number. Thanks for sharing your photos.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  13. Wow!!!

    Hope you and the Mrs are having a lovely Thanksgiving!

    Blessings!
    Ann

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  14. That must be a wonderful place to visit! I can imagine how they sounded..just a few make lots of noise..so it must have been a never ending Swan Symphony! Happy Thanksgiving! :)

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  15. Too bad the video didn't work. These birds are beautiful!
    xo Catherine

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  16. Wow, so many swans! We seldom have more that a couple hundred... but the snow geese! We have them by the thousands.
    Have you ever been to the Eastern Shore of VA? Assateague? Great birding area.

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