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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, February 22, 2009

Last eagle trip south of the year

Holy crap did the Mississippi River open up after that warm spell last week. I was hoping the near zero nights the past couple of days would have re-froze some of it but no luck. I knew I was in trouble as soon as I crossed the river near St. Paul and noticed it was over 90% open. Made my way down to Alma, WI with the plan to work my way back north throughout the day ending up in Prescott, WI. There were 5 eagles in Alma. 3 juvies and 2 mature adults were making some half-assed attempts at grabbing fish but as soon as they missed they would head upstream and keep going.

This is crappy 3 shot stitched pano taken from on top of Buena Vista above Alma. I need to bring the GPS with one of these times just to see what the elevation change is. The point of this shot is to show how open the river is now. Usually only the area below the dam is ice free this time of year.

Another stitched pano using two shots. I didn't bring a tripod with so it was a little tougher to get refence points to line up. I used PS CS3 to make the images.

Stealth juvenile in Alma, WI.

Decided it wasn't worth hanging around down south so jumped back on 61. Reeds Landing is open well into Lake Pepin so kept heading north. Made a quick stop at Frontenac State Park. Image above is from the overlook at the back end of the park. As I was standing here, two juveniles flew below me (both heading north..imagine that). The two spots on the right side of the image are fish houses! It has got to be around 300 feet to the lake below.

Headed up to Red Wing and Colvill Park. My hopes weren't too high for seeing anything good with all the open water with the only exception being the 21 miles of Lake Pepin (where water skiing was invented). As I pulled into the park, I noticed signs saying something about an eagle count going on from 1-3. It was about 12:30pm and a crowd was already gathering (why do people always have to bring their dogs to stuff like this??? Give me a chihauhau...I'll use it as eagle bait). My first thought was SCREW THIS. I didn't feel like hobnobbing with a bunch of people (especially the eco-terrorists) and was about to turn around when I noticed some dude plowing through the snow waaaaay off in the back of the park well downstream from people vs dogs vs NO EAGLES fest in the main parking lot. Headed back where this guy drove out and sure enough, the tracks were just good enough for me to get in and hike down to the edge of the river with a folding lawn chair, binocs, and a camera. Yep, windchill of -5 and I'm sitting there in a lawn chair thinking about how good the sun feels on the parts my skin not covered by winter gear to prevent frostbite. Saw a few eagles waaay downstream but eventually 3 or 4 did come barely within camera range (using the f2.8 70-200 with a 2x teleconverter).

Make sure you click on the images to see a larger version as the compression on the blog really messes with the sharpness.

After messing around with the sporadic action for about and hour, I was getting ready to leave when this mature circled around and landed in a tree about 50 feet to my left. I couldn't get a clear shot so I was content to sit there for a while and watch him watch me. Within 2 minutes the mob in parking lot spotted him and within another minute a stampede of cameras, binoculars, spotting scopes, kids and dogs in tow was rushing the tree. Uh, people? The eagle isn't going to stay put. He took off and the disappointed crowd headed back to their staging area before mounting the next attack on any eagle who dared to land within the boundaries of the park. I had seen enough and was kinda irked with what I had just seen so I packed up and decided to head up to Prescott, WI just to see if the river was open there as well.

Upon reaching Prescott, the river was wide open as expected. I stopped at the Great River Road Learning Center to check out the overlook and was surprised to see 5 eagles buzzing the geese and ducks which were resting near a marina. This guy was nice enough to circle overhead as I tried to figure out how to get down to the river on the Minnesota side as the eagles were circling right up to the shore and with the sun starting to set, shooting to the east would be ideal. Long story short is I don't think there is a good way to do it without a long hike through back water swap and oxbows. I decided to leave that adventure for another day.

Bottom line is the eagles are so spread out now and are obviously moving north towards the nesting areas, I don't foresee another trip down there. I would consider heading back to Prescott unless we get another massive quick thaw within the next three weeks. Otherwise it's time to starting getting serious about chase season and tweaking all the little items which need to be taken care of. Bring on spring.

1 comment:

JakeBlaster said...

Very cool trip, must have been an all day event. I actually love talking with the birders along the way. While I am sure they don't do it while their is no ice but, have you ever seen people ice sailing on Pepin, I have never seen the boat thing (http://www.iceboating.net/node/2720) but, I have seen people para sailing on ski's!!

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