Bird Hunting

This morning my oldest son and I decided that we would go on a drive today to see the Tundra Swans that accumulate in our area during this time of year for a feeding stopover before migrating further south for overwintering. We live near the Mississippi River and one of the largest, if not the largest, migrational flyways in the United States.

Seasonally, all types of birds come and go using this river flyway. They come north in the spring and head south before the waters completely freeze over, as I understand it. I am an environmental educator but birds are a species of which I know very little about. You can ask me about any number of other things concerning the environment, as well as specific species of Lepidoptera, and I’ll know a fair amount. Birds…not so much.

Still, last week when I saw the US Fish and Wildlife Service post on their FaceBook page about the numbers of birds gathering within a fifty-mile radius of where we live, I thought it might be fun to go and try to get some photos.

Today was the day. We headed over to the Minnesota side of the river to get to a couple of overlooks near where Tundra Swans, American White Pelicans, Canadian Geese, Mallards, and a host of other duck species congregate. The post indicated in some spots there were thousands of swans.

I took this as an opportunity to take my telephoto lens, a 600mm whopper, that I had bought several years ago when my son’s soccer team went to the state tournament for the first time. It’s heavy but does allow me to zoom in on subjects that are a fair distance away. I charged my battery, made sure I had an SD card and we were off.

We became concerned when we neared the designated area and had not seen any birds, anywhere – on the river, in the air, or on the roadside. Then, we started to get some precipitation. It was a rain-snow mix. But, the sky to the west was blue, so we continued on.

Soon, we arrived at the overlook, and, low and behold, there were hundreds of birds! White specks everywhere showed the floating and honking Tundra Swans, as other geese and ducks, paddled around them. It was amazing!

After sitting a few minutes in the car, waiting for the rain to pass, we got out and took some photos – along with many other people out for a taste of nature instead of a taste of shopping, on this post-thanksgiving Saturday.

My son also gave me some pointers on using my DSLR camera more efficiently. In an instant, my photos improved! I was also aided by the overlook having a railing on which to support my lens.

It was a fun and worthwhile trip to the Minnesota side of the Upper Mississippi River to bird-watch! I think I happened to get a few nice shots! I might even be starting to like these winged creatures!

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