Day trips for great bird viewing
Two of the most spectacular gatherings of birds occur at this time of year, when tundra swans and bald eagles gather on or around open water on the Mississippi River. Plan a day trip with your visiting relatives and they'll talk about it for years.
Swans by the thousands gather south of the Twin Cities, especially in Brownsville near the Iowa border, to feed up before their long flight to Chesapeake Bay. There will be swans on the river's sloughs and main channel until freeze-up. Take Hwy. 52 south to Interstate 90 to La Crescent, then follow Hwy. 16 to Hwy. 26 south about 3 miles to the Brownsville overlook and parking. It's a 165-mile trip one-way from the Twin Cities.
Bald eagles are moving southward as northern lakes and rivers freeze up, with many of them gathering in Wabasha, Minn., where the river remains open. Stop at overlooks along Hwy. 61 and consider a visit to the National Eagle Center in Wabasha (85 miles away) for a first-class look at how eagles live (closed on Tuesdays, admission is charged): nationaleaglecenter.org.