Swans galore are the norm just south of Brownsville, MN. Fall migration offers birders an opportunity to decide: trumpeter or tundra swan? Swans and dabbling ducks can be seen from one overlook, then less than one mile south is a deep water overlook with diving waterfowl. This is a staging area for one species and is used year-round for the other. From 2-3 p.m. and again from 4-5 p.m. on November 19, Chase will be at the Brownsville Overlook to talk about what swans and dabbling ducks are in sight, the life histories of the swans, and management challenges of the constantly changing Mississippi River. Sundown is at 4:38 p.m. A good number of swans remain at the Brownsville Overlook all day long. Depending on weather, around mid-afternoon the swans begin to return to overnight in Pool 8. Strings and strands of seeming unending groups come from north and south feeding areas to congregate overnight in Pool 8: this is an unforgettable experience and the reason for this late-day meeting. From 3-4 p.m., Chase will be at the Hwy 26 overlook, a mile south of the Brownsville Overlook. Diving ducks feed in this deeper part of Pool 8, possibly including canvasbacks and mergansers. Plan ahead and enjoy a “Day Along the Mighty Mississippi River,” then post your photos, bird list of sightings during your trip, and comments on Saint Paul Audubon’s Facebook page.
DIRECTIONS The time and travel distance are nearly the same whether you travel to Rochester, then use I-90, or if you travel along the river on US 61 in MN or partly in WI to I-90. North of LaCrescent MN, I-90 crosses the river between MN and WI with US 61 continuing south and continuing straight onto MN 16 going south. Stay on MN 16 for about 3 miles and on a curve stay left onto MN 26 which will take you through Brownsville to the well marked surprising Brownsville Overlook. The deep-water ‘Hwy 26 Overlook’ is a mile south from the Brownsville Overlook and is favored by diving ducks.
INSTRUCTIONS Dress for cooling temperatures and probable winds on the riverbank, including a warm hat and gloves. Bring water, snacks, bird book or app.
SAFE BIRDING GUIDELINES Masks and social distancing will be personal choice, and the same goes for sharing equipment. Chase will have a spotting scope to share. Bring binoculars, field guide, or a camera with telescopic lens.
DIFFICULTY Both overlooks are roadside at parking areas and are handicap accessible.
AMENITIES In the past, the Brownsville Overlook had a handicap-accessible portable outhouse.
REGISTRATION No preregistration. Please sign-in with Chase at the site when you arrive. LEADER Chase Davies 651 246-9754 [email protected]
TIPS: Swans are dispersed during the day but depending on wind small to medium size flocks may be viewed in both MN and WI on your trip. In daytime in MN from US 61 they often feed and rest within sight of the Minneiska Cemetery in MN just south of where the Whitewater River enters the Mississippi River. In WI along WI 35 just north of Alma is Riecks Lake Park which also has a viewing platform. More swans overnight here in the bottoms of the Buffalo River where it joins the Mississippi, then remain throughout the day; usually knowledgeable volunteers interact with visitors on the platform.
OTHER THINGS TO DO:
The Eagle Center in Wabasha https://www.nationaleaglecenter.org/
MN Marine Art Museum in Winona https://www.mmam.org/
International Owl Center located in Houston, MN. https://www.internationalowlcenter.org/
Riecks Lake Park, on Hwy 35 just north of Alma, WI, Colville Park, Red Wing, MN., and the several well placed pullouts on WI Hwy 35 along the east side of Pool 8. Finally consider checking out some of the towns and pullouts along either side of Lake Pepin.
8.5 x 14 Map of Lower Pool 8: https://www.fws.gov/uploadedFiles/LowerPool8.pdf