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Category Archives: Reads Landing

Yesterday we had a beautiful day. The sun was out and the temperatures were near 40 degrees. We decided to drive down along the Mississippi River to look for Bald Eagles. This was our first eagle watching trip of the year.

Our first Stop was Reads Landing. In winters past we had good luck finding eagles at this location. They tend to congregate in this location because it usually has open water. Unfortunately there was a lot of open water on the Mississippi and we only found a single eagle. Normally we would have had lunch at the Reads Landing Brewing Company Bar but it was closed. We decided to drive back to Wabasha for lunch at Olde Triangle Pub. We love their Irish stew.

This shot of two soaring eagles was taken a few years ago at Reads Landing.

Bald-Eagles-14-1-_2081

After Lunch we drove back to the Wisconsin side of the river and headed for Maiden Rock. From there we took county Road A along the Rush River. We wanted to check on the condition of the Rush River Ice Sculptures. On the way we saw 5 more Bald Eagles.

We were disappointed at the condition of the ice sculptures. They looked a little forlorn. The warm weather has not been kind to them. We need a week of cold weather to get them back into prime condition. This photo was taken last year after a patch of cold weather.

Nelson's-On-the-Rush-River-14-1-_1990

More photo from Reads Landing and Nelson’s on the Rush River can be found on my website.

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The weather was nice so we decided to take another road trip along the Mississippi River looking for birds. The main goal was to find Bald Eagles but Trumpeter Swans and ducks were also fair game. Our first stop was Wabasha but we didn’t see any. We can usually find them in the trees on the east side of the river but there wasn’t a single bird.

Our next stop was Reads Landing. We spotted six Bald Eagles all flying. On pair was performing  synchronized acrobatics. We watched them for quite a while. Unfortunately they were too far away for photographs. This is the first time we haven’t seen any Trumpeter Swans in the area. This is a photo from last year.

Bald-Eagles-14-1-_2081

We headed for Red Wing and Colvill Park. Unfortunately we only found a single eagle sitting in a tree. He looked a little disheveled.

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So far things hadn’t gone all that well so we decided to drive up to Miesville, Minnesota and try and find Kings Bar and Grill. A friend said they had great burgers. It would have made things easier if I remembered the name of the town or the name of the restaurant. All I could remember was that the name of the town started with M and the restaurant might be Kings and it was on highway 61 north of Red Wing .

Fortunately we found the place. It was mid afternoon on a Sunday and the place was packed. Luckily we found a table. The service was fast but it took a while to decide on a burger because there were so many choices. Once we ordered we had our meal in a short time. The burgers were great making up for a lousy day of bird watching. Would highly recommend Kings Bar and Grill. We have added it to our places to stop when we are in the area.

Apostle Islands Ice Caves:

Normally I’m complaining about the lack of a good winter but this year we have had a fantastic winter. Every winter I look forward to photographing the Apostle Island Ice Caves but this is the first year since 2009 that they have been accessible from the ice on Lake Superior. I was very surprised when I checked  the middle of January and found that the ice caves were already open. Normally they don’t open until January but with the cold weather they were early this year.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1471a

We immediately drove up to Cornucopia to visit the caves. This was followed by two other visits to the caves. We weren’t the only ones visiting the caves. Thanks to social media more than 140 thousand people visited the caves before they closed in mid March.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-1-_1672

In-spite of the large number of people visiting the caves I was able to get some great photos and, for the first time, my wife was able to visit the caves. As you can see by the number of blogs I wrote on the subject this was my favorite winter activity.Apostle-Islands-Ice-Caves-14-3-_0983

Bald Eagle Watching:

The cold weather has been a boon for Bald Eagle watching since it concentrated the eagles in areas where there was open water. This winter we spent time visiting three locations along the Mississippi River to watch Eagles. Our most productive location was Covill Park in Red Wing, Minnesota where we always saw eagles. There were also a large number of ducks that provided entertainment when the eagle watching slowed down. The water is always open below the heating plant above Covill Park so the eagles and ducks hang out in this area.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_1996

The second best location was Reads Landing in Minnesota. On three occasions we saw large numbers of Eagles at this location. We also saw Trumpeter Swans that were hanging out in this section of the river. Viewing at this location slowed down as the winter progressed.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_0599

Alma, Wisconsin was the least productive area we visited. We only saw a significant number of eagles on one visit. On several other visits we didn’t see any eagles or only saw a few. I found this a difficult area to photograph eagles because you are usually looking into the sun.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2164

I wrote a number of blogs describing our visits to these locations.

Trumpeter Swans Watching:

We made a number of trips to Hudson, Wisconsin to watch the Trumpeter Swans. Several people had mentioned that Trumpeter Swans hung out on the St. Croix river but didn’t know the exact location. We eventually found them in downtown Hudson.Trumpeter-Swan-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1125

Because of the very cold weather they were hanging out it a very small area of open water close to shore during the coldest part of the winter. You could walk down along the shore and photograph them and they didn’t seem to be the least concerned with your presence.Trumpeter-Swans-Hudson-Wisconsin-14-2-_1176

These trips resulted in several blogs reporting on our visits.Trumpeter-Swans-14-2-_0592

Lake Superior Ship Watching:

The very cold weather resulted in a lot of ice on Lake Superior. The early ice made for some great opportunities to photograph ships in the cold weather. One of my favorite year around activities is ship watching in Duluth and Superior Harbors so being able to photograph them working in ice was a great adventure.

Baie Cormeau

Baie Cormeau

We were able to watch ships arrive in the harbor during the very cold winter.

Baie Comeau

Baie Comeau

The Coast Guard Cutters were very active this winter and I was able to see them in action as they were breaking the ice and anchored in the harbor.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Tug Boats were also required to help break the ice when the Coast Guard was not available.

Helen H

Helen H

A large number of ships are in the Duluth/Superior docks either being repaired or for winter layup.

American Spirit

American Spirit

The long winter will continue into spring as the ice breakers are working to free the harbor of ice and the ships in layup are waiting to head out for the 2014 shipping season. The season should start in the next couple of weeks.

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

Coast Guard Cutter Alder

 

Rush River Ice Formations:

I discovered the Rush River Ice Formations this winter. What a wonderful place to visit. A local land owner has run piping around his property tapping into underground springs. At about two dozen locations on the property he has run vertical pipes with holes drilled into them. The result are some spectacular ice formations.Nelson's-On-the-Rush-River-14-1-_1918

Long Ski Season:

For the second year in a row we have been blessed with a lot of snow. The difference this year is that the ski season started at Thanksgiving and has continued into March. With a little luck we should be able squeeze in at least one more ski trip this year.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1375

Our favorite location this year was the ABR Ski Trails because they usually receive early snow and they do the best job of grooming of any ski location. They are usually able to have good skiing even after warm weather because they have equipment to break up the trail in icy conditions and lay a new track.ABR-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1183

We also skied at The After Hours Ski Trails in Brule a number of times this year. This is a great location because of the large number of trails and its close proximity to Duluth.After-Hours-Ski-Trails-13-3-_3674

We discovered the Boulder Lake Ski Trails near Duluth and made sever visits to these trails. There are enough trails to provide a nice day of skiing without skiing the same trail twice.Boulder-Lake-Ski-Trails-14-2-_1378

We only made one visit, to what we consider, the most beautiful ski trails in the Midwest. These are the Swedetown Ski Trails in Calument, Michigan. They get more snow and beautiful light fluffy snow than anyplace else.Swedetown-Ski-Trails-13-2-_1124

 

Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2164We pulled into the parking lot at Reads Landing and immediately saw a couple of dozen Bald Eagles flying above the open water. Since our last visit the amount of open water had decreased dramatically. Another couple of weeks of cold weather and there will not be any open water at Reads Landing.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_0637

The eagles were working the open water but I didn’t see a single eagle dive into the water. It appeared that there were not any fish near the surface. On our previous visits the eagles were having good luck catching fish. As I understand it, when the river freezes over the eagles head inland to some turkey farms where they manage to find food.Bald-Eagle-14-1-_2124

A pair of eagles seemed to be performing the mating ritual although this usually takes place in February. They chased one another around and at one point were talon to talon.Bald-Eagles-14-1-_2081

More photos from Reads Landing can be found on my website.