Since my new year’s resolution to myself is to get back out into nature again and update my nature blog more often, I thought I would start off by writing about the Swan Park in Monticello, Minnesota. I have written about this park before on my previous blog in case it sounds familiar to you.
I haven’t been there for a couple of years, so I thought I would grab a friend and head out there on one of my days off. She had never been there, and just got a new camera for Christmas, so win-win. When we got there, it was about 17 degrees, but the wind chill made it feel more like 0. It was chilly, but not too bad by Minnesota standards.
Let me back up just a little bit. If you’re wondering, “what the heck is the Swan Park?” let me talk briefly about it. The swan park is host to as many as 2,700 Trumpeter Swans during the winter months, and is about 13 miles from my door. The banks of the Mississippi enjoy open waters during the winter, and provide the swans an ideal wintering vacation spot.
30 years ago there was a partnership for trying to restore the Trumpeter Swans in our area. There was a release of a pair from Hennepin Parks, and additional pairs followed. A local Monticello resident started feeding them in the winter. As the wintering population grew, she spend entire days hauling corn from a gravity wagon in her driveway down to the river bank for the swans. They later installed a custom-designed conveyor system. The “swan lady” passed away a few years ago, but her husband Jim has continued the winter feeding. Once the snow melts, the swans return to the fields and find plenty to eat there. More information can be found at this link Visit Monticello Swans.
At any rate, when we arrived I noticed the river was really high. We have had a lot of precipitation this year, including snow and rain in the last couple of weeks. I had not seen it that high since I started visiting the swans. In the past, there was a lot more shore, so most of them were up on the rocks and shoreline.
We were lucky enough to get there during feeding time. Jim walked down to the shore and grabbed the buckets of corn and threw it out to the swans. He had to grab a rope and let himself down there because of the high water. There were also many Mallards and Canada Geese. The mallards were going crazy and WOW was it loud! I recorded it on my phone but would have to upgrade my account to post a video 😦
All of the waterfowl were very aggressive! The swans were nipping at each other and I thought the ducks were going to drown, diving down to get the corn! The swans and geese were just going right over the top of them. Jim was very friendly and came over to talk to us and give us some stats. He thought there were about 1,800 there that day, but I was thinking more like 1,000. What do I know? I have seen more in colder, snowier winters. I have also been there when there have been none. Obviously, it was during a year with not a lot of snow.
We stayed a while watching them nip and peck at each other, taking photos. There were several other people there taking photos as well. It is a park, after all. The house on the other side of the park has a big dock, and they charge people to go over there and take pictures. Crazy! They also used to hand out hot chocolate on the honor system but obviously something happened with that because they don’t do it anymore.
Fun facts about Trumpeter Swans and the Swan Park:
- Trumpeters weigh between 21 and 35 pounds and can live up to 25 years.
- Trumpeters mate for life 🙂
- Juvenile Trumpeters are called Cygnets and are gray in color for their first year.
- Lead poisoning, illegal poaching, power lines and loss of habitat are their main threats
- The swan park is the largest flock of Trumpeter Swans in North America.
- The Trumpeter Swan’s wing span can be up to 10 feet, they are the largest waterfowl in North America.
After our toes started to freeze, we decided to head home. I hope you enjoyed the swans as much as I do!