Waterfowl Migration

April 30, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

As a nature and wildlife photographer, I am constantly drawn to the “challenging” opportunities that come with photographing wildlife.  Spring is my favorite time of year in Northeast Iowa, the ice begins to melt on the Mississippi river, daylight becomes longer, and everything from wildlife to flora begin to come back to life.

The annual waterfowl migration came into full swing early with the river opening up due to a mild winter. Large flocks of waterfowl make their way to the river before finishing the migration north. The first arrivals to the area are: common goldeneyes, common mergansers, and buffleheads. This can even be when ice is still on the river. You might see them scrounging for food in areas of open water around the dams or power plants.  Once the river opens up all the way and the marshes are ice free, even more waterfowl species arrive. There can be large flocks of several different types of waterfowl; from divers to dabblers, and ducks of all different colors.

This year I decided it was time to try some waterfowl photography. First, I made a trip to the store to buy some camo. From previous experience, I have found that waterfowl are very skittish and quick to take flight. With my camera and all dressed in camo, it was time to find some locations to sit and wait for waterfowl to come to me.


Male Common Merganser


Male and Female Common Goldeneye


Trumpeter Swan 

Male Northern Shoveler

Male Blue-winged TealMale Blue-winged Teal

Male Blue-winged Teal










Female and Male Lesser Scaup

Male Ring-necked 










Female and Male Canvasback

Male Green-winged teal

RedheadRedheadDecorah Fish Hatchery, Northeast Iowa

Male Redhead

Here are some of the best places to see waterfowl locally, some you can walk and some you can drive and look from the car. Enjoy!

Brownsville, MN Upper Mississippi River Overlook

New Albin, IA Pool Slough: Army Road

Harpers Ferry, IA Red Oak Road: There is a parking area over the railroad tracks and a gravel walk down to main channel

Ferryville and Lynxville, WI: Overlooks

Prairie du Chien, Wi: St. Feriole Island

Dubuque, IA: Mud Lake Park

Dubuque, IA: John Deere Marsh (Riverside Road), there is a gravel walking path

Sumner, IA: Sweet Marsh State Wildlife Management Area


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