After my failed red-throated loon quest in the Port Washington area of Lake Michigan, I returned to my cold Northland along the shores of Lake Superior. In between birding outings I took a bike ride along the shore … 35F, snow flurries, and a 20 mph wind out of the Northeast. Twas an ugly cold bicycle ride.
Thankfully my birding excursions yesterday to some of my favorite wetlands were much more favorable. Both the Roy T. Johnson Wetlands (near Cloverland, Wisconsin), and the MacQuarrie Wetlands (near Wrenshall, Minnesota) by virtue of their locations relative to Lake Superior are way ahead of birding habitat north of the big lake (read cold with little signs of Spring in evidence).
In addition to both lots of Meadowlarks and Wilson’s Snipes singing out for mates, I saw two big migration events. At MacQuarrie yesterday afternoon when the sun finally came out, I found a flock of 500+ Scaups resting on their northward migration, and a few minutes later 1,000+ tree swallows swarmed the air directly above my head as they fed in the late afternoon sun above one of the wetland ponds.
Yesterday I could not buy a decent bird photograph. Although the Meadowlarks were back, neither them or any other bird species would strike a decent pose for a photo. Thankfully I had a fallback … my first freighter image of this shipping season, The Michipicoten. This ore boat is a classic ship having been built in 1952 … making her four years more a classic than yours truly! I tend to be very picky about which ships I photograph, and the combination of the Duluth Shipping News Schedule and a real time marine app allows me to insure I am at the right place at the right time!
The ship photograph must have changed my luck, because over the next 24 hours birds seemed to want their photograph taken, and then to top it off … the steelhead run started which obviously had to be captured on camera. (native rainbow trout which spawn in Lake Superior rivers).
Failed! A Steelhead trying to jump a Lester River cascade.
Wisconsin Wetland Photographs
Sandhill Cranes et al
A Distant Meadowlark
Stuffed! (A very full Bald Eagle which let me get amazing close and never flushed)
Trumpeter Swans have their name for a good reason … they sound like trumpets!
This morning while enjoying the arrival of some early migrants, Killdeer and Red-Winged Blackbirds, over at the Roy Johnson Mitigation Wetlands, I heard some trumpeting behind me. Two swans had just arrived to stake their claim to a pond which had been ice free for less than 24 hours. I hope you enjoy the short video … with audio … which makes their name quite obvious!
If you’ve never visited the Roy Johnson Mitigation Wetlands and find yourself in the Northland, make the trip. The wetlands are located next to the Cloverland municipal building and garage, 18.5 miles along Wisconsin #13 from the first exit of the US Hwy 2/53 Expressway just out of Superior.
Finally, it was fun to watch a pair of Sandhill Cranes. It was only 2+ weeks ago I visited the Platte River in central Nebraska and saw 460,000+ cranes. Assuming these two were in Kearney, they have flown about 730 miles to reach my wetlands!
Back to Minnesota … back to Winter, or is it Spring?
This morning I drove over to visit the Wisconsin State Hwy #13 grasslands near Cloverland and the Roy Johnson Mitigation Wetlands. Given none of the lakes or area ponds are ice free, and the fact that one could still find snow in the deep reaches of the forests, I had low expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to find an area that was thinking Spring might be around the corner.
Canada Geese and Trumpeter Swans were finding minuscule openings of water to stage, and a few early migrants … mainly red-winged blackbirds, robins and American Kestrels were present in reasonable numbers. Early arrivals of other grassland birds were not yet present.
Still lingering in the area were Rough-Legged Hawks like the one pictured below as it waited for more favorable weather and southerly winds to push northward. When I return home I found a few Goldfinches starting to wear their summer plumage.