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| The Suck Zone

March 27th, 2008 Aurora’s

Posted on March 27th, 2008 by Chris White.
Categories: Astronomy - Space Weather.

I am currently in Lutsen, MN on the North Shore for the weekend, it’s the kids spring break, were up for a long weekend.  I drove a ways out of town this evening with my brother as we currently have some solar winds from a coronal hole.  The limiting magnitude was in the 6.8 range the sky’s were amazingly dark in the Superior National Forest.   The show was not outstanding but, certainly worth the one hour trip.   In addition to the spectacular non light polluted sky’s and Auroras we also watched a bright satellite pass, a satellite flare both un-identified (I will have to look them up might have been the ISS and an iridium) was also saw a nice slow moving meteor, a nice orange color.

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March 25th, 2008 The Great Migration

Posted on March 25th, 2008 by Chris White.
Categories: Photography.

I am a little backlogged in my posts the great bird migration is underway, I have been spending quite a bit of time in the Minnesota River Valley checking out the various birds migrating and returning.  Here’s a Great Blue Heron from this evening saw countless other stuff over the last week hopefully I can get thru some more photos, have many great bird shots to sort thru.  Signs of spring are coming, hopefully will have some storm stories in the not too distant future.

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March 21st, 2008 Good Friday Snowstorm

Posted on March 21st, 2008 by Chris White.
Categories: Photography.

Had a nice snowstorm and took a hike thru my favorite park leading down to the Minnesota River Valley.

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March 15th, 2008 The Swans of Monticello

Posted on March 16th, 2008 by Chris White.
Categories: Photography.

I have been reading about the Trumpeter Swans of Monticello for many years and had for a long time wanted to make the trip up to check them out. As many as 1500 trumpeter swans overwinter along the Mississippi in Monticello Minnesota. March 15th, is a bit late season to see them in fact many had left just in the last week to nesting sites. Peak viewing times are between November and February. So I went to Swan Park, a small lot converted park between two houses on the Mississippi with about a dozen parking spaces on both sides of the street. The Park was built next door to a Monticello resident who began feeding ducks, and geese daily over 20 years ago, with trumpeter swans finally arriving soon after. Known as the Swan Lady she feeds the swans between 1200-1500 pounds of corn daily. She pays for the corn herself and welcomes donations. Given the price of corn and with no funding from either the State, DNR, County, or Monticello she welcomes donations (if not just downright deserves them). With the combination of the daily feedings and the power plants upstream it’s perhaps the best swan viewing area in the Nation.

It was easy to find just a couple blocks off of I-94. Upon arrival I heard the loud honking from the parking area and knew I was in the right spot. Just a few cars were present with cars coming and going, lots of family’s with kids would come and check out the birds for 10-20 minutes at the time. Walking up to the park I found out I had missed the feeding by a couple of hours. I had intended to arrive much earlier but, those plans got derailed, unfortunately this also allowed the clouds to roll in making photography a bit more challenging. From the information I have read daily feedings generally occur between 10am and 2pm but, don’t quote me on that.

Entrance to Swan Park

This is the entrance to the park just in front of one row of parking with parking on the other side of the street.

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Looking at the park itself it’s about as wide as a house lot, a bench, table are inside the park with wood fence around with a bunch of informative signs around. Hot beverages are available to the right along with snacks in exchange for donations to help pay for the bird feed.

feeding areaThis is the main feeding area, a bit of a crop as the feeding area was quite a bit larger, in fact, standing here I have ducks and geese to my left, the feeding area is significantly larger with swans, geese, and ducks spread up and down the Mississippi. I would estimate around 100 swans present, minimum. If you look at the grey bin, a mallard had landed inside the bin and the swan was glaring at him, the bins are designed to be too high off the ground for ducks and most geese to feed from. He eventually flew out after getting prodded once or twice.

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Mallards were flying by quite close, they would stay just next door and would occasionally cross the entrance to the park on the way to the neighbors house looking for food.

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The swans had huge webbed feet allowing them to ski on the water during landings as well as ‘walk on water’ as in this photo.

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Quite a few minor skirmishes occurred, I don’t know much about swan behavior but, they seem to have a feeding order, as well as some type of mating ritual going on at the time with small battles going on as a result. It was pretty interesting to watch the interactions between a large group of very large birds as well as different species. A small group of say 5 would be interesting a group of over 100 swans alone was just downright entertaining and I came at the end of the season.

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Some type of skirmish unfolding. They could literally run across the water at each other.

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Landing on their huge webbed feet.

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Mallard coming in for landing.

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Female taking off. Tons of ducks mostly segregated from the swans and geese.

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Swan Song

After the draw of one of Monticello’s biggest tourist attractions, I went ahead and infused $30 into the local economy on gas and food followed by a quick return to the Twin Cities Metro.

With the rise is corn prices exceeding $4 a bushel, Tax deductible donations can be made by check to:
The Trumpeter Swan Society, 12615 Cty Rd 9, Suite 100, Plymouth, MN 55441-1248 but, must clearly specify ‘donation for the Monticello Swan feeding program’, it will help preserve one of the best swan viewing locations in the nation as well as the swans themselves at least until winter migration patterns can be restored.

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