December marked the end of the southbound migration, but it was also a beginning of a special birding season. Many arctic birds that have arrived from the north become the focus of birders, many from other countries.
These birds include boreal chickadees, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, hoary redpolls, common redpolls, gray jays, red-bellied woodpeckers, snow buntings, pine siskins, northern shrikes and red-breasted nuthatches. And northern owls rarely seen in the U.S. — snowy, boreal, northern hawk and great gray — draw birders from all over the world to add to their life bird lists. The Sax-Zim Bog in northeastern Minnesota, an Audubon Important Area, is one of the best sites to view boreal birds.
December offered us a chance to view vast numbers of North America’s largest waterfowl, the trumpeter swan.
These swans gather in abundance where water continues to flow in the winter. One location where these birds gather in abundance is on the Mississippi River in Monticello where water flows year round due to a power plant upriver.
For directions and to learn more about these spectacular birds, visit the Monticello Chamber of Commerce Trumpeter Swans web page at www.monticellocci.com.
This is also a great time of year to view hundreds of wintering bald eagles. Various spots along the Mississippi River in southern Minnesota remain open in the winter, attracting eagles and a variety of waterfowl due to easy access to fish.