Friday, November 25, 2016

Tundra Swans

 Last weekend I made my third trip down to southern Minnesota to photograph tundra swans. Each year tundra swans migrate from their breeding grounds up in Alaska and northern Canada down to the Atlantic or Pacific coasts of the southern United States. A large population, numbering in the thousands, stop over on the Mississippi River in Southern Minnesota to fill up on tubers, roots, of the arrowhead plant before heading east to the Carolina Coast.
 The migration here usually starts at the beginning of November but when I traveled down to the Upper Mississippi River Wildlife and Fish Refuge on the first week of November there were very few swans to photograph, and most were in the middle of the river. The second weekend in November, which is typically when the most swans are in the area, was a little better but still there were not many swans in the water by the overlook. The problem was that the weather was so mild with temps in the 60s to 70s that the swans put off migrating. Finally a dip in the temps brought enough swans down on the third weekend that some finally were with in photo range.
Since each trip was about a two and a half hour drive each way I found other subjects to photograph on the trips where the swans were not around. There are usually a lot of bald eagles on the river this time of year. This one had almost completely molted into its mature adults feathers. With the little bit of black still on the head and tails I would estimate its age at six to seven yeas old. Besides fishing in the river the eagles will also go after the small ducks that are also migrating south. In a few weeks most of the river may be frozen, the swans and ducks will be on their way south to their wintering grounds, and the bald eagles that remain will congregate in spots where the river stays open.