Sunday, February 03, 2008

Monticello Trumpeter Swans

A cygnet landing.

Sheila feeding the birds

The grayish ones are this year's babies -- the cygnets.

When these birds land, all the other birds duck. Really!

Did you see the movie March of the Penguins? Do you remember them talking about the smell of all those thousands of birds, and the sound? I really couldn't grasp what that would be like at the time. I imagined my trips to the zoo. Or the smell of a litter box that hasn't been cleaned. Or the sounds of a flock of geese flying over. That is, until I went to see the Monticello Trumpeter Swans. The minute I stepped out of the car I could hear and smell them. It was overwhelming!

This weekend we went to Monticello, Minnesota to see the Trumpeter Swans that flock there every winter. Resident Sheila Lawrence has been feeding them since the '80s (when there were only a few birds), and so they return to feast, fight, fly, and honk. According to Sheila, the swans have been visiting that part of the Mississippi since the '60s, when a power plant opened, flooding that part of the river with warm water which prevented it from icing over. Nowdays, there are over 1200 swans that visit ever year! It's pretty amazing given that they were thought to be extinct in the early 1900s.

Monticello is only about 40 minutes from us. I'm glad we took the trip. There were about 15 people there also taking pictures and watching. Some of them come every day, many several days a week. One told us that is costs about $150 a day to feed all the birds. She has quite the setup for feeding, too. It's a huge pipeline running from a grain truck in her driveway down to the river. Lots of geese and ducks have of course heard the news and come running, and we even saw some sort of farm duck and a bald eagle! It was really pretty fascinating to watch.

If you go, dress warm and take a telephoto lens for pictures (or video camera or binoculars). You can buy coffee, cider and tea there as a means to fund the bird food.

1 comment:

KristenMary said...

That looks SO cool. You got some great photos! Those swans look huge!! I bet Blake would love to go, he's bird crazy lately. :-)