Lake life: Do you remember when …

Swans appear to race each other above the St. Croix near Hudson, Wis. (Photo by David Fabio)

Swans appear to race each other above the St. Croix near Hudson, Wis. (Photo by David Fabio)

BY DAVID FABIO – GAZETTE COLUMNIST

When I was growing up, I always heard stories from my relatives about the good old days — when they were growing up. I’m sure you heard them also. Snow was 3 feet deep, and they had to walk to school — 5 miles up hill, both ways …

Even though we didn’t hit -40 degrees, I think we’ll hear some good stories about how cold it was in Stillwater. Somehow, our stories will get even better over the years as we retell them.

Just before the cold blast, I went down to the St. Croix River. Just on the north edge of Hudson’s city park, there is open water and a chance to observe the trumpeter swans. This is the best season to see them. They winter along the St. Croix and along the Willow River. If you go down to watch them, pick a warm sunny day. The moisture along the open river tends to be bitter cold.

In the brief time I was there, I was not disappointed. I shot over 200 pictures. I couldn’t help but title a couple of them. The three swans running on top the water taking flight, reminded me of the races. And, the winner was swan number two by a nose (or should I say by a beak?) The swan races were so enjoyable that I saw a couple more swans cutting through the line, making sure they would be in the next race. Ah, but at last, there was one swan that had cold feet and decided not to partake in the winter festivities.

The swans stay in the area all winter thanks to the hospitality of a few people that feed them corn each day. Watching the birds feed was an experience in itself. There were several of us there that morning taking pictures. The birds were as curious about us as we were of them.

In the long winter, you need to look hard to find enjoyable things to do. Pick a warm sunny day and take the kids over to watch them from a distance. It will not take long to understand why they are called trumpeter swans. When you compare them to the geese, you will realize what a rare bird they really are.

Remember, it is a long hard winter for the big birds — try to protect their trusted space, which they need to survive the cold.

David Fabio is a local author and nature photographer. His latest book Water Pressure can be reviewed atdavidfabio.com.

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