Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Tiffany Train

Every spring and fall Wisconsin conservation organizations sponsor guided tours into the Lower Chippewa River on antique open-air trains operated by the Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association. Click here for the latest schedule of rides.

Terry Yust, Chippewa Valley Motor Car Association

I had a ticket to ride the "Birding by Mini-train Through the Tiffany Bottoms" today.  

It's one of the best (and most comfortable) ways to get close to both the neotropical birds migrating through the region -  and those staying to nest in the Tiffany Bottoms State Natural Area. 

I went to sleep last night dreaming of a morning full of warblers.

Prothonotary Warbler (2008)

The sky was full of dark clouds when I left my house at 6:30 this morning.  It was cold (35ยบ) and windy.  Not a good day for insect-eating birds - and people who want to see them.

As far as the birdwatching went, it was not so good (only 40 species), but at least we didn't get "skunked."

The highlights were good views of Sandhill Cranes, Bald Eagles (flying and on a nest) and a Belted Kingfisher - hovering, then plunging headfirst, into the river.  We heard several sparrows and warblers, but for the most part, the birds we came to see spent the morning hunkered down.

By the time we got back to the parking lot on Thibodeau Road, the sun was threatening to brighten the sky, but the front didn't move out until later in the afternoon.

And wouldn't ya know, the best bird I saw all day was at my feeding station at dusk:  a Harris's Sparrow.


  1. My friends and I were on this train trip. Despite the uncooperative weather, we enjoyed the ride and greatly appreciated your expertise. This was our first time on the Tiffany Train, and we hope to go again. KC

  2. Heidi..thank you so much for your enthusiasm, passion and great help coming alongside a "new" birdwatcher. Thoroughly enjoyed the time, even though I felt much like a popsicle. Great excuse to warm up with a cuppa hot tea later... Hope to see you on the fall ride!

  3. Despite the unseasonably cold weather, the Lower Chippewa is a great place to see wildlife. It's amazing that we have such a long stretch of intact floodplain forest and 25% of Wisconsin's remaining prairies.

    You don't need to wait until the fall to come back - you can access the Lower Chippewa on Rustic Road 107 and on the Chippewa River Bike Trail. Just be sure to bring DEET!