Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beautiful Tundra Swans



It's that time of the year again, mid to late November when Mrs. T and I  head down to the "Big River". The Mississippi River that is where we witness one of those true wonders of nature.  There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We, however, always 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  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!

On November 15th the official estimate was ten thousand swan in the immediate vicinity. Some years we have seen upward of thirty thousand. The only thing I have ever seen to compare to it is the annual migration of sandhill cranes into the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.

 

10 comments:

  1. A pretty exciting event to see.I could almost hear them, what an event to be part of.

    ReplyDelete
  2. We were there on the 10th and wow-it was impressive indeed.
    We also came across a parking area 1 mile south of the south viewing platform that was , for some reason, a spot that had over a hundred eagles. What a sight. We enjoyed it immensely.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What an amazing sight. It is hard to imagine them in the thousands. I think I can hear them also. They can really make a racket.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Neat! I can't think of the name of the town but I went down every winter to see them between Redwing and Winona. It's wonderful what the DNR is doing to restore their feeding islands.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Those are some nice photos Sr T, and a well written post, ie some great conservation advocacy by way of a vivid first hand account.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love it when we get some swans here at the Chincoteague Wildlife area - actually they hang out over on Assateague, as a rule. Not many. Only found 16 last time I did a count up there.
    The snow geese number in the thousands as do Canadas. We also have Brants, but they do not share the same water space - more out in the channels.

    Re Yule Tide... I have had friends keep camellias up North. They keep them in large half barrels on wheels... take them out doors early spring, bring them into an unheated (but not below freezing very often) enclosed porch for the winter, usually around Christmas. They are a lot of work, doing that, but the blooms are worth it.

    PS, I swiped your cartoon (prev. post) to share.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That is amazing! I couldn't imagine hearing it all let alone seeing it. What a thrill! Now I really must get to our local national park (Cross Creeks) and see their birds. It is also a stopover. I did not know about the islands all disappearing but did know about the refuges for migrating birds. Great info and really good pics! I want to take a trip there now!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, that is amazing. My little river, despite its name (The Rio Grande - the Big River) does enjoy large migrating flocks of birds. We look forward to the return of the Sand Cranes this month who winter over in our Bosque Apache, a national wildlife refuge. Here's hoping the current Interior Secretary doesn't mess up on protecting our birds.

    ReplyDelete
  9. WOW! That is really cool to see!

    ReplyDelete
  10. That must be an awesome sight. Those swans used to land somewhat briefly north of Sarnia, but the only time we went up to see them, we were too late.

    ReplyDelete