Monday, October 26, 2009

Tundra Swans

I first heard the phrase "swan fall" over a decade ago, but I never expected to experience one.

Then it happened.

I was living on the prairie north of Weaver Bottoms along the Upper Mississippi River in Minnesota.  It was late October.  The moon was full.  I was awakened by the sound of whistling wings and the echoing "who-who-who" bugling calls.

I bolted upright, got out of bed and ran to the window.  I could see them - dozens of ghostly white swans, literally falling out of the sky, one after the other, landing in the river nearby.

That's a swan fall.

Later that morning, I drove down to the river.  It was dotted with rafts of white swans.  From a distance they looked like fallen snow.

The swan fall marks the beginning of the approximately 4 week stop-over of feasting swans - fueling up for the last leg of their migration to the coastal waters of the mid-Atlantic from New Jersey to North Carolina.  These big birds spend half of their lives migrating - from their breeding grounds along the Arctic Circle to their wintering grounds along the mid-Atlantic coast.

Today, ten seasons later, it felt like time for the Tundra Swans to be here - especially after the recent snowstorm.

Tom and I hopped into the Prius and went looking for swans.

We headed across the River to Minnesota, and down Highway 61 towards Winona.  We spotted the first rafts of white birds on the River at Weaver Bottoms.  I pulled off the road at the cemeteries and pulled out my scope.  White Pelicans or Tundra Swans?


Further down the River, just north of the I-90 bridge to La Crosse, we spotted more white birds - way out there.  Further down at the Brownsville overlooks, we spotted dozens of pelicans hauled out on the new constructed islands, and hundreds of swans sitting in the water.

On the way back, after stopping at Bauer's Market in La Crescent (for apples and a pie), we checked out the waterfowl situation at Rieck's Lake Park in Alma.  No swans.  One pelican and lots of Green-winged teals.

No comments:

Post a Comment