BALD EAGLES abound in and around Alma, Wisconsin, but it is especially thrilling to see these massive birds gather in great numbers during the winter months as they fish in the open water just below Lock & Dam #4. Rieck's Lake, within the city limits of Alma, Wisconsin, offers opportunities to view migrating Tundra Swans primarily in the fall and by chance in the Spring. Please be aware that the Tundra Swans do not visit Alma in the numbers they once did; today, it's a thrill to spot a few small groups - but a thrill none-the-less! You may also get a rare glimpse of one of Wisconsin's endangered species, such as the Trumpeter Swan or the Peregrine Falcon. The Upper Mississippi River is a major flyway for thousands of migrating birds each year, and many call it home year ‘round.
Alma, Wisconsin is the County Seat of Buffalo County. Western Buffalo County is ranked 17th among the top 50 birding spots in Wisconsin by the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology. Wild turkeys, pheasants, sandhill cranes, red-tail hawks, bald eagles, golden eagles, canadian geese and several varieties of ducks can be seen throughout the county. The National Eagle Center released rehabilitated golden eagles in Buffalo County with radio tracking devices. They continue to return to our area during their migration, and a golden eagle survey is held in Buffalo County each year.
The Great Wisconsin Birding & Nature Trail is a mapped auto trail that reaches into every area of Wisconsin, including Buffalo County. Full-color viewing guides with maps and descriptions of every site leads the nature traveler to warblers, shorebirds, eagles, loons, cranes and all manner of mammals found in some of the state's premier wildlife venues.
This Refuge was established by an Act of Congress on June 7, 1924, "as a refuge and breeding place for migratory birds, fish, other wildlife, and plants." The north end begins at the confluence of the Mississippi and Chippewa rivers near Wabasha, Minnesota and the south end is near Rock Island, Illinois. Just over 240,000 acres of wooded islands, marshes, and backwaters comprise the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge. The 240,000-acre refuge winding through 4 states for 261 miles provides a home for hundreds of species of fish, birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects and native plants. It is a place where the rare and uncommon seem commonplace.
Located 16 miles north of Alma, Wisconsin is Tiffany Wildlife State Natural Area (also known as Tiffany Bottoms). This 717-acre portion of the most extensive river delta in the Midwest contains a representative portion of the larger Tiffany Bottoms floodplain forest. Flowing into the Chippewa River and the Mississippi River, the Bottoms abound in wildlife and contain rare birds such as the red-shouldered hawk, great egret, cerulean warbler, prothonotary warbler, great-blue heron, pileated woodpecker and the blue-gray gnatcatcher. The Tiffany Bottoms is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and was designated a State Natural Area in 1958. The Bottoms can be accessed from all four sides, including State Hwy 35 & State Hwy 25.
Take a ride on a mini train through the Tiffany State Wildlife Area and the Chippewa River Bottoms with onboard birding guides! Our local non-profit nature and art center, Wings Over Alma, sponsors the event twice a year during spring and fall migration. As many as 73 species of birds have been sited in one trip! There is a requested donation of $40 per person, which includes the train ride, a sack lunch, birding guides, a history of the mini train, and locals with knowledge of the Tiffany Bottoms wildlife area. Event may be rescheduled due to weather conditions. Family rates available.
BIG SWAMP WILDLIFE AREA
Big Swamp Wildlife Area is an 844-acre property in Buffalo County. Find it 5 miles west of Mondovi, south of Hwy 10, and approximately 25 miles from Alma, Wisconsin. Currently, access is only available from County Hwy A on the south side of the property. The property consists of upland hardwoods and marsh. Big Swamp Wildlife Area is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Acquisition began on the property in 1956 with the goal of protecting winter cover for pheasants. The property is surrounded by private lands, so it is important that users know and respect the property boundaries.
Located along the lazy Mississippi River north of Fountain City and about 10 miles from Alma, Wisconsin, the 322-acre Merrick State Park is popular with anglers and boaters. The marshy backwaters are home for egrets, herons, muskrats and otters. Merrick State Park is owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and has been a park since 1919 when the land was donated.
WHITMAN DAM WILDLIFE AREA
Whitman Dam Wildlife Area is a 2253-acre property in Buffalo County. Find it 3 miles southeast of Cochrane across the main river channel from Merrick State Park. Access is available from Merrick State Park or at the end of Whitman Dam Road west of Kamrowski Road. The property consists of floodplain forest and marshland. Whitman Dam Wildlife Area was established in 1965 from land donated to the state of Wisconsin for Merrick State Park.
The Ramsar Convention (formally, the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat) is an international treaty for the conservation and sustainable utilization of wetlands. It is named after the city of Ramsar, Iran, where the Convention was signed in 1971. The Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife & Fish Refuge, along with Merrick State Park and Whitman Dam Wildlife Area, was designated a Wetland of International Importance on June 1, 2009. This was the 27th wetland in the United States to receive this designation and the 2nd in Wisconsin.