Sunday, March 22, 2009

Eagles and Swans on the Mississippi

We drove over to Red Wing and Lake City yesterday to look for open water and see what early migrating ducks might be showing up. Because it was such a beautiful day, the waterfronts were busy with walkers, birders and other sun-starved Minnesotans, and open areas of the river at Red Wing were teeming with fishing boats. Apparently KARE-11 had just aired a story on eagle-viewing at Red Wing's Colvill Park, so the number of birdwatchers was higher than usual.

We saw little duck life -- mostly mallards and a distant glimpse of mergansers far out in the river at Lake City -- but plenty of bald eagles and at Lake City a flock of 50 or more swans settled on the ice at the edge of the open channel of water, again quite far out from shore. Our view of these distant birds through the spotting scope was hampered by ripples of heat haze, which I wouldn't have thought would be an issue over ice, but apparently so on a warm, early-spring day (well into the 50s at that point and warmer as the day went on).

We saw quite a few eagles soaring, but probably more out on the ice, looking like this. It's a rather startling sight to scan the large, mostly frozen Lake Pepin and see so many scattered dark blobs with white tops that prove to be bald eagles -- perhaps just resting and enjoying the sun, as we were. As more of the area lakes open up, the eagles will disperse; right now they are still concentrated at areas of open water like that downstream of the power plant at Red Wing. All together, we probably saw between 30 and 40 eagles during the course of the outing -- a few juveniles, still bearing dark head feathers, but mostly the dramatically colored adults.

Because of the distances involved, here was the only halfway decent photo opp of the day, of an eagle perched on a snag across the river at Colville Park.


John T. said...

Hello Penny,

My son was down at Covil Park yesterday. He was wondering why there were so many eagle watchers. Now we know.

I've been seeing the swans flying over headed north in flocks of 20-30 birds.

Penelope said...

Hi John - we saw one of your real estate signs along the way!