Wednesday, May 1, 2002


Great River Birding Festival to feature Lake Pepin area

Audubon's Upper Mississippi River Campaign and the Mississippi Valley Partners are proud to bring you the 1st Annual "Great River Birding Festival" being held May 11 and 12, 2002. Come explore the Lake Pepin area of the Upper Mississippi River as we celebrate the beginning of spring, International Migratory Bird Day, and the return of our feathered friends.

The festival will consist of over two dozen birding events and special presentations by top-notch birders and naturalists from the UMR region. Visitors will have opportunities to see live birds of prey up close, as well as the basics of bird banding, bird identification, and good birding ethics. In addition there will be butterfly, wildflower and nature walks. Several area artists will demonstrate their skills during the day and musicians will entertain during the evening.

Held concurrently in 13 communities along the Lake Pepin shoreline, the festival is the result of a partnership between Audubon, the Mississippi Valley Partner communities in both Minnesota and Wisconsin, and the MN and WI Departments of Natural Resources, and Offices of Tourism. Participating communities include: Alma, Bay City, Camp LaCupolis, Frontenac, Kellogg, Lake City, Maiden Rock, Nelson, Pepin, Reads Landing, Red Wing, Stockholm, and Wabasha.

The cost of the festival is $2.00 - which will also entitle festival participants to "Birder's Specials" being offered to those wearing Festival Buttons by restaurants and stores from the participating communities. Additional fees are required for select events, including a two-hour Audubon guided backwater birding tour on the river and a 5-6 hour birding tour through the 1,200 acre Tiffany Bottoms in WI aboard an open car railroad! (For these events, pre-registration is required. To pre-register, go to website:

Saturday night in Frontenac will also include an evening reception and keynote address by Al Batt, President of the Minnesota Ornithologist's Union. There will also be live music entertainment in other participating communities that evening.

Audubon's Upper Mississippi River Campaign seeks to educate the public about the ecological significance of the Upper Mississippi River, and the importance of a healthy Mississippi River ecosystem for people, birds, fish, and wildlife. Mississippi Valley Partners is a nonprofit coalition of thirteen communities devoted to promoting the Lake Pepin area on both sides of the Mississippi River.

For additional information regarding the Great River Birding Festival, please visit, or call Mary DeRoos at the Lake City Tourism Bureau at 877-525-3248.

Weaver Dunes part of Great River Birding Festival

The Great River Birding Festival taking place on the shores of Lake Pepin May 11-12. The festival is actually being held concurrently in 13 riverfront communities on both sides of the Mississippi, and includes nature discovery walks in the Weaver Dunes in Winona County.

Saturday, May 11
9-11 a.m.

Weaver Dunes Wildflower Walk -- Spend a beautiful spring morning enjoying the sights and sounds of the Weaver Dunes Prairie in Winona County. This unique dune habitat is home to a diversity of prairie plants. During early spring you can expect to see blooming prairie smoke, creamy wild indigo, prairie buttercups, spiderwort, as well as many bird species, like Lark and Grasshopper Sparrows. You may also get a chance to see (or hear) Sandhill Cranes, Upland Sandpipers and Dickcissels. Program will be lead by Jaime Edwards, MN DNR Nongame Wildlife Specialist

Meet at The Nature Conservancy Field Station parking lot of the Kellogg-Weaver Dunes SNA (off Cty. Rd. 84)

Sunday, May 12
7-9 a.m.

Birds of the Weaver Dunes Sand Prairie -- Come explore this special and unique ecosystem situated along the Mississippi River. An official Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) in Minnesota, this site contains a rolling sand dune topography on a terrace where the Mississippi, Chippewa, and Zumbro Rivers once came together. Some dunes are as high as 30 feet. Plant species to be found include Pine Oak, Burr Oak, and Jack Pine. Keep a lookout for Eastern Meadowlarks, Orchard Orioles and Grasshopper Sparrows as well.

Same meeting spot as the Wildflower Walk

Sunday, May 12
9-11 a.m.

Weaver Dunes Butterfly Walk -- Join Flicker Ridge Naturalist, Scott Mehus, as he leads a field trip on wildlife's new "it" species: butterflies. The Weaver Dunes are the perfect place to search for prairie butterflies like the endangered Regal Fritillary and the Karner Blue Butterfly. Expect to see 20 or more other species, and lean some helpful tips on buying binoculars and books for butterfly watching.

Same meeting spot as the Wildflower Walk

Mosquito-transmitted viruses likely to reach Minnesota this summer

Horses especially vulnerable, vaccine available

Mosquito season is approaching and Minnesotans, especially horse owners, need to be on alert for two mosquito-transmitted viruses.

West Nile Virus (WNV) is a viral disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes to animals and people. In 1999, the virus was first detected in the United States in New York City. The virus has spread westward to 28 states, including Iowa and Wisconsin. It is expected to reach Minnesota this spring. To date, 149 people in the US have become ill with WNV. In 2001, 731 horse cases were identified in 19 states; 63 percent of those cases were from Florida.

Most people bitten by an infected mosquito will not get sick. Symptoms include mild, flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and body aches. Rarely, severe illness develops, but signs include high fever, neck stiffness, muscle weakness, convulsions, and paralysis.

WNV poses a serious threat to horses. Symptoms include lethargy, hindquarter weakness, involuntary muscle contractions, loss of coordination, head tilt, circling, convulsions, paralysis, and coma. In 2001, 33 percent of horse cases died or were euthanized as a result of their illness.

A vaccine for West Nile Virus for horses has been granted a conditional license by the USDA. It is recommended that horses be vaccinated annually at least 3 weeks before the mosquito season. The vaccine for Eastern Equine Encephalitis will not protect against WNV.

Western and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (WEE and EEE) are other viruses that can be transmitted when an infected mosquito bites a human or horse. These diseases are rare in humans but can be life threatening. EEE was documented in Minnesota for the first time last year, with three confirmed cases in horses. No human cases have ever been reported in Minnesota.

Most WEE and EEE infections in humans do not cause any symptoms or illness. When people do develop illness, symptoms are similar to WNV and can include high fever, fatigue, aching muscles, a stiff neck, and tremors or confusion. Although illness is rare, when it does occur, death rates in children can be 5 percent for WEE and greater than 50 percent for EEE. Illness survivors may have brain damage and long-term disabilities.
In horses, symptoms of WEE and EEE are similar to WNV and can include fever, loss of appetite, drooping eyelids and lower lip, aimless wandering and circling behavior, blindness, and inability to stand. The infection is fatal to horses in 40% of cases with WEE and more than 90 percent with EEE.

Horses can be vaccinated against WEE and EEE. Outbreaks of EEE often occur several weeks before the illness is documented in humans. People cannot contract WNV, WEE or EEE directly from their horses.

"There is no human vaccine against these viruses; therefore people should take precautions such as using mosquito repellants," said Jeff Bender, DVM, MS, assistant professor, CVM public health program. "Outdoor activities should be avoided at dawn or dusk when some mosquitoes are most active. Eliminate potential mosquito breeding habitat on or around property. Horses owners should contact their veterinarians regarding vaccination of horses or to report any suspicious illnesses they see in their horses."

Minnesota Department of Health, Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Board of Animal Health, the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District, and the CVM are actively collaborating to watch for evidence of these diseases and keep the public informed. The CVM and Medical School are jointly developing outreach strategies to veterinarians, physicians and public health officials about the epidemiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of WNV.

For more information: U of MN College of Veterinary Medicine; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; US Department of Agriculture; and the MN Department of Health

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