Sunday, January 10, 2010

A Sunday Trip to the Mississippi

The weather was pretty nice today, so we decided it would be a good day to take a drive down towards the Mississippi and see if we could spot some eagles and any other interesting birds. Here's the report of what we saw today. We drove up to Lake City and then headed south on Highway 61 (Minnesota's Gret River Road).
Fortunately, traffic wasn't too heavy this afternoon and there are several pull-outs along the highway where we can get some good looks at the river and birds. This is the Mississippi completely frozen over.

The hills on the other side of the river are Wisconsin and the Canadian Pacific railroad tracks run along both sides of the river.

There was one really large spot of open water right in front of one of the pull-outs, so I was able to get out and take some pictures. Here's an adult Bald Eagle perched in one of the trees along the river. There were lots of ducks swimming around in this open water too.

There were at least 10 eagles (both adults and sub-adults) flying around here, in addition to several other eagles we saw perched in trees and sitting on the edge of the ice.

It was fun watching the eagles swoop down close to the water over the ducks and the ducks disappearing under the water to stay out of the eagle's talons. I'm not sure whether the eagles really like to eat ducks or if they were just messin' with the ducks for some entertainment.

There were lots of different ducks out here, but they were quite a ways out there and it was just too cold for me to set up the spotting scope and spend much time trying to identify them. I could tell from the quacks that there were some mallards there. I also noticed some Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes.

While we were there a Canadian Pacific freight train came by pulling a bunch of tanker cars filled with what we thought was ethanol.

OK, time to get back in the truck to get warmed up and find some more birds. Our next stop was some open water down by Read's Landing where I spotted these swans. Holy crap, swans?

There were at least 8 of these swans in this area and I think they were Trumpeter Swans. What do you think?

We continued down to Wabasha where we crossed the bridge over to Wisconsin and headed south towards Alma and the open water at the lock & dam there. I was surprised to see swans in the open water at Alma too. Unfortunately, it was getting late in the afternoon and the sun was at the wrong angle for me to get any decent pictures. but I this these might be Tundra Swans. They were that grayish color similar to the juvenile Tundra Swans we saw on the Mississippi last November during their migration.

There were quite a few ducks in the water here too, but the light wasn't right for me to be able to identify any of them.

However, there were quite a few Bald Eagles in this area too. We saw at least 12 sitting on the ice at the edge of the open water in addition to a few soaring around.

But the coolest thing we saw here was when we started looking at the trees on the other side of the river and saw that there were Bald Eagles perched in a number of trees. I counted 11 Bald Eagles perched in this one tree!
This reminds me of eagle pictures I've seen from Alaska....we were so amazed to see so many Bald Eagles here in Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Oh, so cool! I'm going to have o make another trip down there yet this winter. Did you stop at the National Eagle Center?

Anonymous said...

What a nice day for bird watching. I can't believe all the eagles in one tree, AMAZING! It is something to see swans this time of year but if there is food and open water, why not. Thanks for the trip.


Mama Pea said...

Enjoyed this post and all your pictures as usual, Ruthie.

We're seeing more and more Bald Eagles up here by us these days, too. A real treat.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What an entertaining drive Ruthie. Great looks at the ducks and Eagles. It makes me want to drive over to our little river, the Wabash, and have a look. There were little icebergs floating by the last time we were down there. No eagles though although we have seen them here. Just one at a time though.

Jayne said...

As I was reading your post Ruthie, I was thinking just that... wonder if the Eagles will try to snatch a duck out of the water? Seems it might be rather easy with so many targets! Love that last photo of all of them in the tree. :c)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Lynne,
We drove down to the National Eagle Center, but surprisingly enough, there was only 1 eagle flying around there and no waterfowl that we could see. The largest concentration of eagles and waterfowl we saw were between Lake City and Wabasha (those first few pictures on this post).

Hi Mom,
It was so amazing.....I never thought we'd see so many eagles on just one trip. (definitely worth the cost of the gas for this 150-mile round trip)

Thanks Mama Pea. I think I read somewhere that Minnesota had the largest concentration of eagles in the winter outside of Alaska. I never get tired of seeing them.

Oh Lisa, take the drive! If nothing else, it will be a good excuse to get out and enjoy a sunny day in January.

Hi Jayne,
We didn't notice them catching any fish either, but I remember Richard had a blog post last fall of some eagles hunting ducks on the lake by his house.

Carol said...

I like that picture of all the Eagles in the tree together.

Gaelyn said...

What a great trip to the river. So many ducks, and eagles. Wow, that tree full is awesome. It kind of looks like your in Alaska.

RuthieJ said...

Thanks Carol. I was sure wishing for a longer lens for my camera though.....

Hi Gaelyn,
Alaska was exactly what I was thinking of when seeing all those eagles in one tree!

Meggie said...

At first I thought you were headed to the state of Mississippi and I thought, "holy smokes, that's quite a trip." Then I read on and realized you meant the river...dah! Somtimes my blond hair really suits me. Love the photo of all the bald eagles in one tree. And in your previous post, the pics of the birds in human hands are outstanding.

RuthieJ said...

LOL Meggie! You know being so far away from "the state of" I never even think of that causing any confusion!

Marsha said...

Great shots! Last year we went on Valentine's day and a lot of the eagles had already migrated on because of the mild winter but it looks like the river has a lot less open water this year. How FUN-derful to be able to see so many eagles in one tree, that is making me want to go once again too :)

RuthieJ said...

Hi Marsha,
There's an awful lot of ice out on that river! Hope you get a chance to head over this way for an eagle watching trip this year.

Kelly said... must be just amazing to see all those eagles, and all the birds on the river are gorgeous...

dAwN said...

Great sightings..I am having a great time catching up on your blog..I have wifi for a day..Yippeee..then we head of to the desert again..hoping for some cell internet..
anyway...great wow on the Bald eagles decorating that tree!!!