I live in Brownsville, Minnesota, and for the past four years this small town has been attracting bird watchers from around the area. Almost four years prior there has never been this much activity to stop and look at birds migrating south for the winter season.
What has happened in this relatively short period of time?
After taking about a 5 minute drive down the road along the Mississippi River, I stopped at the Brownsville Overlook. This is a small area that the state has built an overlook over the river which is a designated wildlife refuge. In this refuge migrating Tundra Swans, Puddle and Diving Ducks stop here on their migration path.
Recently, the Unites States Fish & Wildlife Service began a project just outside of Brownsville called “Pool 8 Island Phase III Habitat Rehabilitation and Enhancement Project” at the Upper Mississippi River Refuge. This project began in 2006 and is scheduled to finish around 2012 or sooner if possible. This specific project has focused efforts on ‘recreating’ a natural habitat for fish,vegetation, waterfowl, and other wildlife.
Last year I noticed that they had a dredging crew at the refuge creating and enlarging islands in the water for the variety of waterfowl. By the end of the project they will have completed: 22 islands, 3 breakwaters, and 1 offshore rock mound.
This project has been a success because 100’s if not 1000’s more of these birds stop at this refuge each fall-the reason there are even more bird waters crowding the Overlook. I don’t think there has ever been this many migrating birds that have stopped in this area since I have lived here.
When I was at the Overlook earlier today, it was like watching a scene from Planet Earth. The water was full of Tundra Swans, and the sky had countless birds flying in or flying out. There are so many birds, that at night you hear this constant “quacking” sound.
After reading the signs, posters, and pamphlets they have available for visitors, I noticed this refuge isn’t just for birds. The islands that they are enlarging or creating will help reduce water flow into the area which will help sediment in the water settle. As the water becomes ‘clearer’ this allows vegetation in the water to receive more sunlight. This gives the migrating fowl a more bountiful eating supply at the refuge. Of course, the increased vegetation and islands will be perfect for fish habitat as well.
I am glad that both Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the U.S. Government has taken up this very expensive task to enhance habitat for these migrating animals.