The border between Minnesota and Wisconsin is marked by the St Croix River, in the north, and the Mississippi River, in the south. Where these two rivers meet sits the city of Prescott, on the Wisconsin side, and Point Douglas Park, on the Minnesota side.
Due to the joining of the two rivers this area does not typically totally freeze up during the winter time. Because of this it is a great spot to photograph birds during the lean winter months.
Trumpeter swans, which were once on the verge of extinction, are common winter residents of the area. Because they are dabblers, they float on the surface while plunging their heads under water in search of aquatic plants, they are usually found close to the shore with the mallards and Canadian geese, who are also dabblers.
The common goldeneye is also pretty common during the winter. They are usually found in flocks of around 20 or so. Birders are often scanning these flocks looking for a possible Barrow's goldeneye, which are rare visitors to Minnesota.
There are other ducks that are occasionally mixed in with the swans, geese, mallards, and goldeneye. These include scaups, canvasbacks, redhead ducks and others.
Most of these ducks are diving ducks, who dive in the open waters in search of fish. They are usually found further out in the open waters of the river. Although they are usually alone or in pairs they often mix in with other waterfowl on the river.
Some exciting birds also visit this area in the winter. There has been a harlequin duck that has wintered in the waters near the railroad bridge for the past two winters. This is a bird that typically does not visit Minnesota often.
There are also other unique sightings from time to time, like this leucistic goose who I photographed at Point Douglas late in 2008. Leucistic means that it does not have pigment in some of its feathers, some people call it partial albino.
Even though parts of the river usually stays open it still gets cold here. Sometimes it is so cold that the fog forms frost on the trees, this is called hoarfrost.
Some times it is not only the trees that get frosted over.
There are two bridges that cross the river to Prescott, one is for cars and pedestrian traffic the other is a railroad bridge.
The towers on the railroad bridge are used as a nesting site by peregrine falcons. Peregrines where mostly extinct east of the Mississippi River in the early 1900s. Now thanks to the ban on DDT and release and recovery efforts by the Midwest Peregrine Foundation the peregrine is off of the Endangered Species List, they were removed in 1999, and they are doing well. There are three to four nesting pairs with in a 25 mile radius of Prescott each year.
Peregrines are not the only predators around. Since Prescott is one of few places where open water is found during the winter it is a magnet for bald eagles. A few eagles will stay in the area over the winter but the best time to photograph eagles is when the are migrating. Bald eagles are partial migrants. The winter weather does not bother them but they do need to eat, and since much of their diet is fish they will migrate if there is not sufficient food. This eagle stopped by Prescott, along with many others, on his way north back in February of 2008.