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Anything outdoors!  Tornadoes, eagles, blizzards, or auroras.  If it is in the sky, running through the woods or swimming in the water, I'm there!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Western Minnesota River Valley Day Trip

For Minnesota chasers, mention the Minnesota River valley and most will start to mutter a string of four letter words about how that damn dirty ditch has screwed up an awesome intercept or caused a chaser to miss a tornado by just a few minutes. The area from the Lac Qui Parle refuge all the way to Mankato has a reputation for being a real pain to deal with. In 2002, I nearly got eaten by small southeast moving tornado near Belleview, MN due to a bad map showing a river crossing which does not exist.

So you get the idea. I'm not a real lover of the river during chase season. However, I thought I would see if some of the raptor viewing was as good as I had heard with highs forecasted to push 70 degrees on the 2nd of November, I couldn't pass it up. My original plan was to head out on 7 to Montevideo but they still don't have the road open from 25 going west. Grrrr. They are still diverting all traffic down to 212 so off I went to Renville, MN then headed south to the river.

You really don't realize how big and deep this thing is until you either drop in or find a high point to look over the whole valley. This shot was taken near Granite Falls, MN looking east/southeast.

Anyhow, my journey through the rural roads running parallel to the river started off in Renville county and continued upstream to about half way between Granite Falls and Montevideo.

A slough full of swans above the ridges in the flat farm country. Once you get out off the river valley, this area is about as flat as it can get and is a chasers paradise as pretty much ever section is squared off with well maintained gravel roads.

The first stop of the day was at the Renville county park where the bed rock lines the banks of the river. It's hard to remember this is in western MN and not up north looking around. We are going to make a point of coming back to camp at this park next spring. Simply beautiful.

Raccoon tracks in the mud. I'll take dealing with these masked garbage can raiders on a camping trip over the bears up north anytime.

Anyhow, on with some birds. Although not plentiful in terms of numbers, the red tails riding the thermals along the ridge tops with the light winds were all beautiful mature birds.

It was really frustrating as I could never get one to soar with the sun shining on the bird. They always ended up with the sun behind or off to the immediate right.

There were a few eagles around but far fewer than I was expecting. Pretty sure a lot have moved down river towards the Mississippi and the wintering grounds after last Sunday's storm.

The final count for the day was 2 mature bald eagles, 1 juvenile bald eagle, 2 turkey vultures, 9 red tail hawks and 1 broad wing hawk. More important were the 2 bald eagle nests I marked with the GPS to come back and check on next spring while waiting for the cap to break on a chase day.

This fire was burning directly south of Granite Falls off highway 23. I didn't think much of it until I stopped at Subway for lunch and came out to my car being covered with ash! I'm thinking it had to have been some type of massive leaf fire to put that much ash into the air. Crazy.

Playing around with a shot up road sign and the sun amongst the weave of power lines just northwest of Granite Falls.

Best campaign sign of the year. This ranks right up there with Dick Mussel who was one of our city councilmen when I lived in Anoka. Maybe his campaign slogan should be "WTF? VFF!!" (Vote For Fluck...get it?)

One last red tail makes a departure from it's roost east of Wilmar on the way home.

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