ALMA, Wis. – Thousands of tundra swans converged on Rieck’s Lake on the Buffalo River to refuel on their annual 4,000-mile flight from the Arctic to marshes on  Chesapeake Bay. Hundreds of birdwatchers also flocked to Alma for the spectacle. The birds, mostly 20 pounds, don’t stay long at Riecke’s Lake, but as they move on there will be more waves passing through until the lake freezes over. The birds don’t realize it, but their poop fertilizes the delicious lake-bottom tubers for which they dive and chow down on their next flight through. Other tundra swan stop-overs:

> Weaver Bottoms. On the Minnesota side of the Mississippi River, off Highway 61 near St. Mary’s Cemetery.

> Brownsville. Off Highway 26 three miles south of Brownsville, Wisconsin, near the Iowa border.

> Stoddard. At the Shady Maple overlook, 3-1/2 north of Stoddard, Wisconsin on Highway 35.

See: Beth Gauper’s  wonderful first-person experience

Yes, bring binoculars. You can see the numbered tags that naturalists have attached to the birds to track them. Old friends at Rieck’s Lake say that K744, banded in 1992, flew more than 100,000 miles in her lifetime.

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