Roseau River Wildlife Management Area Produces Birding Discoveries

I took a drive down the “dike road” at Roseau River Wildlife Management Area in northwest Minnesota on Sunday morning to wet a line and see what I could see.

Once again, I was reminded why it’s always a good idea to carry a camera in the vehicle.

I was driving along the western end of Pool 1 when I came across several swans. Stopping for a closer look, I photographed a couple of the white birds, balancing the camera on the roof of my truck to minimize the chance of blurry images.

The birds were a few hundred yards out on the water, and I had to zoom in a long ways.

A family of trumpeter swans photographed Sunday morning at Roseau River Wildlife Management area. (Brad Dokken photo)

I had snapped several photos when I noticed a pair of swans farther east. Between them swam five fuzzy, gray-colored offspring, known as “cygnets.”

I drove a few hundred yards farther down the road for a clearer photo and managed to get several more shots of the swan family as the birds swam across a patch of open water.

I’m not a hard-core birder by any means, but the encounter was pretty cool, I thought, as I drove east down the dike road, which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources opens to motor vehicles for a couple of weeks every summer.

The southern half of Minnesota is considered the range for great egrets but these birds were photographed Sunday morning at Roseau River Wildlife Management Area just a couple of miles south of the Canadian border. (Brad Dokken photo)

I’d driven another mile or so when I noticed three more white birds on the waterfront. They were much ganglier than the swans and more skittish, but they landed in a shallow area that offered me an unobstructed opportunity for more photos.

Sunday night, I emailed the photos to Heidi Hughes, manager of the Audubon Sanctuary of the Red River Valley near Warren, Minn. She confirmed the swans were trumpeter swans — “tundras don’t nest this far south,” she said. Hughes also said the Minnesota Ornithologists Union hadn’t received any reports of nesting trumpeter swans this year in Roseau County.

Well, they have now.

Trumpeter swan range in Minnesota.
Great egret range in Minnesota.

A Google search led me to conclude the next birds I photographed were great egrets. Their yellow bills were a dead giveaway. Hughes said the great egrets aren’t reported as a Roseau County nesting bird, either. A range map Hughes supplied shows the egrets are limited to the southern half of Minnesota.

Apparently, someone forgot to tell the trio I spotted Sunday.

Roseau River WMA is located north of Badger, Minn., on Roseau County Road 3 and the dike road will be open to vehicle traffic weekends through Aug. 19.

For more information on Roseau River WMA, click here: