Saturday I went up to a viewing area about three miles South of Brownsville, MN which I think is one of the better places to see and Hear(!) the Tundra Swans fairly close. There are other places along the river to see the swans in Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin from early November until around Thanksgiving depending on the weather. The sound of thousands of Tundra Swans is hard to describe, somewhat like honking geese, but very musical. While they are gregarious and rarely fly alone, they are also very territorial when they are feeding and will aggressively confront others. Their skirmishes with one or several other birds will take them chest to chest out of the water, stretching their necks and beaks as high as they can, loudly vocalizing the entire time. Quite a sight to see and hear (photo above).
For a couple of weekends in November there are naturalists at the Brownsville viewing area and across the river in Wisconsin south of Goose Island to answer questions. There was a pretty good crowd with binoculars, spotting scopes and cameras all day long (I imagine all weekend). The light was challenging with heavy overcast much of the day, but I got lots of photos of the swans flying and feeding. As they come in for their landing they are very graceful flying through the air, but then, rather than quickly settling down in to the water like most geese and ducks they sort of run across the top of the water, sometimes taking a couple of steps across the water with their big webbed feet and then sort of skipping back up in to the air and then a few more steps before finally landing with a splash. Sometimes they slide on their big feet like water skis. Fun to watch and hear.
See more photos of the Tundra Swans (and some of Trumpeter Swans taken earlier).
Iowa photographers Linda and Robert Scarth were also taking pictures the day I was there. We had a nice chat and I think entertained some of the spectators with all of our camera equipment. You can see some of their photos on their wonderful blog at http://scarthphoto.com/wp/