Around this time of year in the St. Louis area there are a couple of birding events that take place, and Jim and I try to get out and take some photographs if our schedules permit. First of all, it is trumpeter season at the Audubon Center at Riverlands in West, Alton. Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans overwinter in the great rivers confluence area. Trumpeter Swans are the largest native waterfowl in North America, reaching lengths of up to 6 feet. Their wing span is around 10 feet! It is believed that this group of swans comes from upper Wisconsin, and they typically spend December through early February here. At this time last year, 960 swans were counted in the Riverlands. Sunday I would say there were only a couple hundred. It is quite something to hear their honking, thanks to long, coiled windpipes. Unfortunately, none of them took off while we were there. That must be something to see as they need about 100 feet of runway space to get airborne.
Trumpeter Swans Audubon Center at Riverlands
The second thing we like to do is look for eagles. When the rivers north of Missouri freeze, the eagles come south looking for food in open waters. According to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, around 2,500 eagles winter along the lock and dams of the Mississippi River. The bluffs along the River Road in Illinois also provide a native habitat for these majestic birds. We took the road along the bluffs as far north as Pere Marquette State Park. Fortunately, you don't have to peer too closely for the birds. You can simply pull your car over to the side of the road where others are parked, especially when you see someone with a long, telephoto lens or a pair of binoculars. There are always other eagle scouts out this time of year.
The eagles have landed
While the day was pretty nippy, arriving early in the morning assured us of catching sight of the birds while they were out to feed. There is just something about seeing the national symbol of the United States in person that warms the heart, if not the body.