Once we got south of Brownsville, Minnesota, we started seeing the swans and other waterfowl where open water remained on the Mississippi. Many of them were just hanging out in the 38 degree water, but there were other groups constantly flying in and out of the area.
By late morning, the sun became hidden behind a heavy layer of clouds. It was windy and cold and the lighting for photos wasn't ideal, but I couldn't resist taking some pictures of this Tundra Swan family swimming close to the viewing platform.
You can see how windy it was -- messing up this swan's feathers as it swam around.
Here are the 3 kids swimming by themselves (yes, that's ice in the background!)
Near this group of swans was also a large group of mallards--some of them just sitting on the ice. Doesn't it just make you shiver looking at them?
There were Bald Eagles everywhere in this area too--soaring above the bluffs, sitting out on the ice, and just perched in the trees. I've never seen so many eagles in such a short amount of time. Here's a pair of juveniles sitting in a tree right along the highway. I was able to snap this picture quickly before they both flew away.
Also out on the river channel was this large flock of waterfowl. We saw Common Goldeneys and Redheads; other birders nearby also identified Canvasbacks and Scaup. As we hiked down to the river, something scared them and huge groups of the ducks started to fly away. It was really neat to hear the sound their wings made as huge numbers of ducks flew into the air and to see all these ducks circling around over the water. I've never seen anything like it before.
At one of our stops this morning, I recognized Ecobirder with a group of birders. I hope he does a post about his visit to the Mississippi today since his camera and photography skills are superior to mine. (If you're not familiar with his blog, you'll want to click on the link above and check out his wonderful photos.)
Being something of a train enthusiast, I was also happy for the opportunity to see this freight train traveling south on these tracks that run along the Mississippi.
Here's something else I saw today that I never thought I'd see again......