Posts Tagged With: winter

Monticello swans

wooden park sign with two swans, two cattails, and the words Swan Park

Swan Park is a small viewing area overlooking the Mississippi River in the middle of a neighborhood in Monticello. The water is relatively warm in this spot downstream from a nuclear power plant. We visited on Presidents Day, along with about two dozen other people, and we heard the sounds of the swans long before we saw them.

Trumpeter swans have made a terrific comeback in this area, thanks in part to the dedication of Sheila Lawrence. She was feeding ducks and geese in the mid-1980s when a few swans started showing up too, part of an effort by Hennepin County Parks (Three Rivers Park District) and the DNR to bring these native birds back from a Minnesota population of zero.

interpretive sign with Sheila Lawrence's story and a picture of her throwing corn to the swans

In an article for the Trumpeter Swan Society (PDF), she talked about seeing a tv report about a swan release: “I was amazed at such a sight and thought wouldn’t it be wonderful to work with those beautiful swans? You know the old saying, ‘Careful what you wish for, you just might get it.’ Little did I know then what fate had in store for me or just how much the Trumpeter Swans would change my life.” Now, about 2,000 swans reportedly visit Monticello every winter. Her husband has taken over feeding the swans since her death five years ago.

a man holding an orange bucket at the edge of the river, with dozens of swans watching him

A truck was there to refill the corn supply…

Munson Lake Nutrition truck and a man standing next to a large red bin

…which is carried down a pipe to the river’s edge.

thin pipe above a snow-covered lawn

There were some squabbles, but not as many as I thought we’d see for so many birds so close together.

31 swans, three of them flapping their wings, plus geese and mallards

Lots of wing-stretching.

closeup of one swan stretching in shallow water

Canada geese and mallards also take advantage of the free food.

a dozen mallards on the snowy shore, plus a mixture of geese and swans at the edge and in the water

I’ve always thought of Canada geese as really large birds – but compared to swans, they’re tiny.

wide photo of dozens of big white birds, plus many smaller darker birds

A pair of swans coming in for a landing:

two swans banking to the right a few feet above the river

straightening out and gliding a foot down

just touched the water and it looks like they're standing up

one swimming swan with a water trail behind it, and the other already lost in the crowd

We visited the park in the morning, on our way to Sauk Centre. At that point there were hundreds of each bird.

cloudy view downriver, with many birds

On the way back to the Cities, about four hours later, the sun had appeared but there were no more swans in the water, though some of the ducks were still around.

sunny view of the same spot, with ducks barely visible at the far right

We did spot several pairs and groups of swans flying in the area.

two swans flying against a pale blue sky

More information about Minnesota’s trumpeter swans

Categories: Wright County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Winter in MSP

Before the snow completely melts, I should recap some of our winter adventures in the Twin Cities.

One Saturday in January we planned two outdoor stops in Minneapolis. First up, a kite festival on Lake Harriet. This “dangerous ice” sign didn’t stop anyone.

Sign: Keep off. Dangerous. Ice not safe.

There were many kites and hundreds of spectators. I managed to avoid a crash-landing kite at the last second.

Hundreds of people and several flying kites

After we’d had enough of the kites, we drove east to Minnehaha Falls, but we got distracted by all the cars near Lake Nokomis and then remembered the U.S. Pond Hockey Championships. We reached the rinks on the middle of the frozen lake just as time expired for the day, but still got to see some action because this game needed overtime…

Hockey puck between two players in front of the goal

…and then needed a shootout to determine a winner.

One team celebrating while the other skates off the ice

Then on to the frozen Minnehaha Falls – essentially a must-do winter activity:

Light blue, frozen Minnehaha Falls with many people standing at the base

Later in the season our sights switched to St. Paul and the Winter Carnival, which kicked off with the Crashed Ice downhill skating (not skiing) race. I took some time over a lunch break to watch practice near the Cathedral one afternoon before the competition began:

A skater at the top of the course in front of the Cathedral

Maybe half of the competitors were able to stay upright throughout the course’s ups and downs and jumps.

A skater coming off a jump after a short incline

Then we went back to downtown St. Paul one very chilly weeknight to see the carnival itself. It seemed that the excitement must happen on the weekend because there were so few people, but that meant we were able to get up-close to the ice sculptures in Rice Park. This was the only sculpture we noticed still standing after the warm first weekend of the carnival:

Ice sculpture: bear with fish and penguins

There was a broomball game on the ice rink next to the candle on the Lawson Commons building:

A player swinging at a ball with two defenders

We also headed over to the state fairgrounds to see the snow sculptures:

Snow carving of the Winter Carnival logo, with colorful lighted sculptures in the background


More photos

Categories: Hennepin County, Ramsey County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Eagle watching at the Red Wing checkpoint

several trees with an eagle nest at the left and a bald eagle flying at the right

A lone eagle ready to land in a treetop.

Last Saturday we decided to take a short trip, hoping to have an outdoor adventure before the impending polar vortex drove us back inside. We had a good time visiting Paul Bunyan last month when we stumbled across the CheckpointMN winter scavenger hunt, so we thought we would try another destination. One of the options is a location in prime eagle-viewing territory in Red Wing, so we headed south on Highway 61, just needing an hour to drive from the Twin Cities.

The DNR recommends looking for eagles anywhere from Bay Point Park and Colvill Park, so we started at the checkpoint at the south end and headed back north. If you’re not paying attention, you will miss the turn for Colvill Park because the park is not easily visible from the highway, and you need to go west and cross under 61 to reach the park. I have been to this park before, and we still missed the turn.

a faraway view of three bald eagles in one tree and one eagle in another tree

The busiest section of trees we saw. Too bad I didn’t have a zoom lens!

This was at least our third joint trip to Red Wing, one of our favorite Minnesota cities. It was allegedly 19 degrees above zero, but a strong wind made it feel like at least 19 below. I struggled to smile for the official pose, and my husband struggled to take a photo without removing his gloves!

a smiling woman in a purple winter coat with her arms outstretched

Soaring like an eagle for my CheckpointMN pose.

I’m typically not one to complain about the cold, but the wind was strong enough that we didn’t last long outside and we’re already talking about returning when it’s a little warmer. It would be a lot of fun to walk along the river or relax on a bench to watch the action. The last weeks of February and first weeks of March are typically good times to view eagles in Red Wing or a little farther south in Wabasha.

Lots of ducks — mallards and what we think were common mergansers — weren’t afraid of the cold water, but of course eagles are the stars here. This photo was taken from the comfort of our car. I imagined one bird saying to the other, “Cold enough for ya?”

a bald eagle and another bird sitting on an ice sheet in the middle of a river, with a dock and grasses in the foreground

A bald eagle chatting with a friend.

We planned to also visit Barn Bluff Park, but since it requires a long climb on snow-covered stairs, we’ll save that one for a warmer day. Instead we headed to the third park, Bay Point, for our last look at the eagles, near a lot of ice fishing houses on Ole Miss Marina. At this location the eagles were too far away to watch for long, but this bird made the stop worthwhile:

raptor flying to the left with a view of the underside of its left wing

We got a closeup look at the flight of this beautiful bird.

We didn’t realize that Saturday would also be a good day for watching trains. In the short time we were in the parks, three different trains moved through Red Wing.

three trains: Soo Line, Canadian Pacific, Amtrak

Three parks, three trains.

Red Wing is also notable, of course, for pottery, antiques, and shoes, but we didn’t do any of those this time — just lunch and a stop at the uniquely fun Scandinavian Uffda Shop. A fun end to a fun afternoon of eagle watching.

More about Red Wing

Visited: January 4, 2014

Categories: Goodhue County | Tags: , | Leave a comment

December decorations

Christmas swag in Bagley, MN

Garland from sidewalk to sidewalk in Bagley (Clearwater County)

Our first stop on the Checkpoint MN scavenger hunt was a visit with Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji. All along the scenic route, we enjoyed the small-town charm of Christmas decorations on lampposts.

I was surprised by the wide variety of shapes: lots of candles, candy canes, and trees, but also a few poinsettias, a stained glass window, Rudolph, and a toy soldier.

Christmas decorations - poinsettia, star, snowflake, and stocking in Becker, MN

Four of the many decorations in Becker (Sherburne County)

Christmas banners and a candy cane in Royalton, MN

Two kinds of decorations in Royalton: banners and shapes (Morrison County)

Christmas decorations - a wreath and tree in Staples, MN, and a poinsettia in Motley, MN

Candle and tree in Staples (Todd County), and poinsettia in Motley (Morrison County)

Christmas decorations in Lengby, MN - stocking, tree, candy cane, bell, shooting star

Lots to see in Lengby (Polk County)

Christmas decorations - stained glass window, wreath, tree, angel

Stained glass in Sebeka and wreaths in Menagha (Wadena County); trees in Eagle Bend and angels in Bertha (Todd County)

Christmas decorations - Rudolph, tree, candle, toy soldier

The lights turned on while we were driving down the street in Clarissa, so we turned around and toured again! (Todd County)

Other Christmas road trips

Categories: Clearwater County, Morrison County, Polk County, Sherburne County, Todd County, Wadena County | Tags: | Leave a comment

Snowy stairs

Snow-covered staircase

Location: Zumbro Falls
Date: January 31, 2010

Categories: Wabasha County | Tags: | Leave a comment

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