For the last couple weeks or so, we've been hearing tundra swans flying over -- sometimes while on the deer stand and also real early in the morning when we get up for work. So earlier this week, we made plans to take a drive down to the Mississippi just south of Brownsville, MN to view this spectacle before they continue their migration to their final wintering grounds in the Chesapeake Bay. Usually my Sissy and I take this trip in November, but this year Mr. Johnson decided he'd like to go, so I gladly decided to let him drive (while I knitted, of course!)
I was really disappointed when I woke up early this morning to heavy fog and a dense fog advisory until 10 AM. Fortunately the fog wasn't quite as thick right down on the river as on the higher ridgetops.
Although the weather conditions weren't optimal, I did manage to get a few marginally good photos and videos. These swans are so beautiful in flight. Their wingspan is approximately 5 and a half feet.
Here's an adult with two of this year's hatchlings. Their grayish feathers and pinkish beaks distinguish them from the adults. These juveniles will stay with their parents for a year.
There seems to be plenty of things for them to eat on the bottom of this shallow part of the river. Watching these birds, we saw that most of them were able to just stick their heads under the water to find food, but the juvenile in the center of this picture must have been especially hungry because it was "tipped up" quite a bit of the time!
Preening seemed to be quite an important activity also.
I took quite a few short videos and "stitched" them together to make a couple of longer videos for your viewing enjoyment. Here's Part 1.......
Here's Part 2 of the video. In it you will hear Mr. Johnson ask me if they're protected to which I reply "yes" (don't ask my why I was whispering -- it's not like I was going to scare any birds away by talking out loud!) Anyway, that got me to thinking about whether they're hunted anywhere, so after doing a google search on "tundra swan hunting" I found that several western states do, in fact, allow hunting of tundra swans: Utah, Nevada, Montana, and a limited hunt in North Dakota. Fortunately, Minnesota and Wisconsin have not established any hunting seasons on these beautiful birds.
I was really surprised to see several small flocks of American White Pelicans hanging around in this area of the river also. For some reason, I thought that they would have all migrated through by now.
We drove up the road to check out a couple other viewing areas and I was able to capture this video of a small group of the pelicans "fishing" for their dinner.
There was plenty of other waterfowl in the area also. My duck ID skills are poor at best--when I saw this duck, my first thought was "Bufflehead." Then when I looked at the preview on my camera, I realized that looked more like a merganser beak, so checked my field guide again to confirm the ID of Male Hooded Merganser. This photo really doesn't do it justice, so if you have a field guide handy, look it up to see what a truly beautiful bird this is.
Here's another poor photo of some ducks I couldn't ID. Anybody have any thoughts on these? I'm thinking perhaps Green-Winged Teal or perhaps Gadwall (based on the black rump).
Here's another large group of different ducks. I think I saw a Ring-Necked Duck in the group (the big white ring around the tip of the bill helped with that ID). I think it looks like there are probably a couple of Canvasbacks in this group too.