Waterfowl Concentration Areas
The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife Refuge is located in four states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois along the Mississippi River. The refuge covers just over 240,000 acres and extends 261 river miles from the confluence of the Chippewa River in Wisconsin to near Rock Island, Illinois. Fall is an especially significant time as thousands of waterfowl migrate following the river highway. Migrating tundra swans are prevalent in November at Reick’s Park near Alma. Late October into early November almost all the nation's Canvasback (more than 100,000) congregate both north and south of LaCrosse. During the peak fall migration in late October, hundreds of thousands of ducks, grebes and coots gather on the refuge.
Horicon Marsh is known for its concentration of Canada Geese. Hundreds of thousands of geese and other waterfowl concentrate on and near the refuge in October and early November. Located in north central Dodge and far southern Fond du Lac counties, Horicon March is an international wetland of significance. Follow the auto tour signs circling the marsh or the interior auto with its entrance located off Highway 49. Goose watchers should also keep vigilant, because they may also see Trumpeter Swan, Great Egret and White Pelican.
Sandhill Crane staging areas are concentrated in two locations in the state. One is in or near Crex Meadows and the other is one of several wildlife refuges or state natural areas in the central part of the state (Comstock Bog SNA, White River Marsh WA, Germania WA, Bass Lake Fen SNA, Lunch Creek Fen SNA and Necedah NWR ). In late October and early November, Sandhill Cranes stage in the areas prior to migrating farther south. Numbers of up to 10,000 cranes have been reported from White River Marsh alone. The raucous bugling calls mixed with softer whistles can give the observer of sense of feeling the birds as well as hearing them. Carefully scan these large flocks for the occasional large white Whooping Crane.
Deep Water concentrations of waterfowl such as Scaup, Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common and Red-throated loons along with occasional sightings of Scoters and Long-tailed Ducks, beckons the naturalist to the shores of our Great Lakes. Excellent observation locations for viewing these massive rafts of birds can be found at Wisconsin Point, Chequamegon Bay, the west shore of Green Bay, Baileys Harbor, Fisher Creek Recreation Area, Sheboygan City Parks, especially North Point, Port Washington city parks, Lion’s Den Gorge, Virmond Park – Mequon, Schlitz Audubon Center, Bradford Beach - Milwaukee and Wind Point – Racine. These locations have publicly accessible waterfronts available for observation of the great lakes.