Sunday, November 18, 2012


Thousands of Tundra Swans are now gathering on the backwaters of the Mississippi River just south of Brownsville, Minnesota. (Not far from the Iowa-Minnesota border).  The young swans(greyish) are already just as large as their parents.  The sights and sounds of this mass gathering is a world class experience and should not be missed.

Notice that two of the swans are feeding.  They stop here to refuel on plants such as arrowhead roots, and wildcelery.  At their peak , just before freeze up, there can be as many as 25,000 Tundras Swans gathered together is just few miles of the upper Mississippi River.

By Friday Nov. 16 there were several thousand Tundra Swans on Mississippi pool #8 south of Brownsville, Mn.  This number will continue to grow as more swans leave their tundra homeland in northern Canada and head for the mid-atlantic coast of the United States where they will spend the winter. Pool number 8 is a major stop over for about 30+% of all the swans.

Most of the swans rest and feed in the shallow backwaters of the Mississippi.  As we were watching and listening to the swans a tug barge came up the main channel in the background.  This caused some of the birds to take off and give us quite a show.(see next picture also).  GO UP AND TO THE RIGHT-CLICK ON NOVEMBER 2012 (OR OTHER MONTHS) TO SEE MORE NATURE PHOTOGRAPHS.

The sight, and yes the sound, of hundreds of swans in the air at once is well worth the effort of getting there. Some travel expert once made a list of 50 things in the whole world you should see before you die-and this was on the list.  As it well should be.

Even when they fly short distances they use the V-shape or a line and let the lead swan cut thru the air for the rest. We have been told by the locals living along the river that most the swans will leave on the same day-that day seems to be when it gets cold enough to freeze up the Mississippi backwaters and therefore eliminate their ability to dig up the bottom for food. Last year they left in the night.  What a sight it must be to see 10 to 20 thousand swans in the air at one time.  TO SEE MORE SWAN PHOTOS GO UP AND TO THE RIGHT AND CLICK ON NOVEMBER 2012.

When they turn to land they position their bodies to catch as much air as they can to slow their desent.

The Tundra swans land with a surprising grace.

Most of the Pelicans have already headed south for the winter, but we are still seeing a few on the big river-the weather has been quite mild(in the upper 40's and even a few 60's).

Saturday, November 3, 2012


The Chickadee is our feeder favorite.  They come in all seasons and weather. I got this photo a few years ago after a big snow storm. I was only about 2 ft. from it when I took this.

The jays are the bullies of the bird feeder.  They come in as a mob of a dozen or so and everybody else scatters until the gang leaves.

The Cardinals prefer sunflower seeds to any other food. They need good cover to survive the winter.

This nuthatch is a year around resident and loves sunflower seeds and suet. (note the sunflower seed in its beak.)

This nuthatch comes down from up north in early fall and sometimes spends the whole winter with us, and leaves for up north again in the spring. We currently have 3 with us-more than normal. To see more photos go to the right and up and click on Novermber 2012.

Most winters we have a good population of Goldfinches at our feeders.  They lose most of their yellow and turn drab in the winter.

The Juncos arrived in force from up north a few weeks ago.  They are usually ground feeders and we often find a pile of feathers left by a Junco that had become lunch for a Sharp Shin Hawk.

This is a small hawk that often hunts the birds at our feeders.  This morning several Blue Jays were within 2 ft. of a Sharp Shin and letting all other know that one was around.  The Jays are too big for the this hawk to handle.

The male House Finch and the male Purple Finch look a lot alike. The Purple finch will not have the brown streaking on the lower breast that you see on the House Finch above.  It will also have a very strong brown patch below the eye(see next photo).

This bird migrates down from up north in fall and winter.  The females usually show up before the males(which are a wine red color).  Note the brown patch to the left and down from the eye-this patch is the easiest way to tell a Purple Finch from the previously shown House finch.

This sparrow needs brushy habitat and is not all that common at feeders.  Migrates to this area from up north in the fall and winter.

The English or House sparrow is all too common.

This woodpecker is really not well named-a well marked male will have a very little rusty red color on the side of its breast.  It is quite aggressive at the feeder and will even bully the Blue Jays.  Prefers sunflower seeds to suet.

This is the smallest of the woodpeckers at our suet.  It also will eat sunflower seeds.  The female does not have the red patch on the head. If you see a woodpecker that looks like an over-sized
Downy it is a Hairy Woodpecker.

The Pileated is almost crow sized and seldom comes to our feeders.