Restoring Grayling and Trumpeter Swans, a Growing Management Challenge

August 5, 2012

Image

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge (RRL) in Montana’s Centennial Valley is the most important nesting area for Trumpeter Swans in the western United States.  In addition to the vast refuge marshes, there are also 30+ historic nesting territories on nearby federal and private lands.  Greater Yellowstone’s nesting swans are the most vulnerable breeding Trumpeters in North America and the only nesting group that escaped extinction in the lower 48 states.  Swan habitat management decisions in the Centennial Valley will have a substantial impact on the viability of these nesting swans.

Last year, through our Centennial Valley Project, we produced a detailed report summarizing the off-refuge territories and providing recommendations to correct problems and increase nest success. This year, we are working with landowners to improve conditions at priority territories.  Thanks to grants received from the Cinnabar Foundation and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, we are also expanding our efforts to focus on a very important issue – ensuring that efforts to restore lake-dwelling grayling are planned with the utmost care to avoid significant damage to important Trumpeter Swan habitat.

Although this beautiful fish is widespread in Alaska and Canada, grayling in Montana are a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act.  The Centennial Valley is home to one of the last lake-dwelling populations in the lower 48 states.  Recently, fish managers have proposed restoration actions that would drain both Culver and MacDonald Ponds on RRL.  These spring-fed man-made ponds have provided much of the late winter/early spring foraging habitat for the valley’s nesting swans for over 100 years and TTSS is asking the US Fish and Wildlife Service to carefully reconsider this action.

Careful integration of grayling and Trumpeter Swan restoration needs will be a challenge for the foreseeable future.  Our goal is to build a vital partnership with fish managers and conservationists to explore all possible management options and find ways to minimize and mitigate swan habitat damage if at times it is unavoidable.  We are hopeful that this situation, involving the restoration of two iconic, vulnerable populations, will become a showcase effort of integrated management for vulnerable species with overlapping ranges that have differing habitat needs.

This article by TTSS Board Member Ruth Shea appeared in the July 2012 issue of Trumpetings, Vol. XXII, No. 2. Members of the Society receive this publication three times each year.

Find the detailed report summarizing TTSS’ recommendations for the Centennial Valley and more on the Greater Yellowstone Initiative (GYTSI):

http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org/GYTSI.html

The Trumpeter Swan Society July 2012 Photograph of the Month

July 11, 2012

Trumpeter Swan Family © Tammy Wolfe

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Tammy’s capture of the Trumpeter Swan pair with their three cygnets on the nest shows the how the use of a long lens, while factoring in subdued lighting produces a well exposed photograph.  Finding the nest early on, watching how the pen and cob interact and setting up on the appropriate day shows how planning can create the desired effects.

This nest was on private property and Tammy had the opportunity to watch the nest being constructed and the subsequent laying of five eggs.  Not that all swan nests are on private property, but photographing nests on public property is subject to disturbance from other folks out recreating.  Having access to private property allows you to practice ethical photography without having to worry about those outside disturbances.

A number of photographs we have reviewed have a consistent theme when photographing swans – fog/overcast conditions diffusing the light and minimize contrast between the white birds and darker areas/shadows of the scene.  Tammy utilized light, overcast conditions to remove these potential challenges and to take the photograph under optimal conditions.

Take a closer look at the lighting.  All of the swans are exposed with lighting from the front, not overhead.  If the lighting were overhead, the underside of the breast of the bird on the left would be darker than the rest of the bird.  So it was a photograph taken late in the day.  This is where knowing your subject, the setting and then planning your photograph gives you the right results.

Most very good wildlife photographers use a long lens when photographing wildlife.  You can get frame-filling shots as in Tammy’s photo, and you can control the focus of the background.  In this setting Tammy also used her lens to stay far enough away to prevent any disturbance to the birds, the ethical path to an outstanding photograph!

The Life History Moment

Tammy had been monitoring the nest long enough to note that the eggs had hatched two days prior.  The young were still using the nest two days subsequent to hatching AND that now both parent were now on the nest.

During incubation the pen does all the brooding, while the cob does not take part in this activity.  Even when the pen leaves for preening, feeding or any other reason, the nest is protected by the cob, but he does not incubate or shade the eggs.  So having both adults on the nest at the same is an unusual occurrence!

Featured Photographer for July, 2012 – Tammy Wolfe, State of Minnesota

Tammy and one of her photographs were featured in this column in May, 2010.  So here is an update of her background since that time.

From Tammy:  Nature Photographer

I have collaborated on a children’s story about Trumpeter Swans with Mary Lundeberg. Right now the book (Spirit of the Swan) is only available as an ebook on Kindle. However, we are currently working with an editor and small publishing company and hope to have the print version available later this year.

Another accomplishment as a photographer is that one of my owl images was selected for the October 2010 cover of Your Big Backyard magazine, a National Wildlife Federation publication, and a greeting card company purchased one of my Trumpeter Swan images to use as a greeting card.

Since May 2010 I have traveled to Alaska, Arizona, Montana, Hawaii, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Colorado, and Florida to photograph mammals and birds, but my favorite subject to photograph is in my home state of Minnesota and next door in Wisconsin is the Trumpeter Swan.

See and find out more about Tammy’s photographs at:http://twolfephotos.smugmug.com

About the Photo:

From Tammy: When I first started to photograph the swans several years ago, I mostly photographed them where they overwintered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Nowadays I am thrilled to be able to photograph them year round. This spring I had two amazing opportunities to photograph nesting swans on private property. Both pairs ended up with five eggs hatching, and I was happy to be present at both sites when some of the eggs hatched. I hope to continue watching and photographing the cygnets as they grow up.

Photographing Trumpeter Swans in the late spring and summer can be difficult on sunny days because the light is harsh, and the birds are white.  The image was captured at a Minnesota site a few hours before sunset when the light is less harsh. The cygnets were two days old when the image was made. I used my 500 mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter so that I could photograph from a safe distance but still get frame-filling images.

We are pleased that Tammy was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

The Trumpeter Swan Society Receives Major Grant from the Yellowstone to Yukon Consevation Initiative for Work in Montana’s Centennial Valley

May 26, 2012

Trumpeters in Centennial Valley by Jess Lee

The Trumpeter Swan Society is most grateful to the (Y2Y) Partner Grants Program for supporting our efforts to protect to swan habitat in Montana’s Centennial Valley.  Y2Y recently announced their grant of $4,500 to support our Centennial Valley Cooperative Wetland Conservation Project. The Centennial Valley, including Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, contains the single-most important nesting and molting habitat for Greater Yellowstone’s fragile Trumpeter Swan nesting flock.

Preventing damage to these habitats and where possible improving their quality is a top priority for TTSS.  Some of these wetlands also provide important habitat for Grayling, which might be listed as threatened or endangered in the near future.  Without great care, there is potential for some actions that would benefit Grayling to damage important swan habitats. In addition, at some sites water delivery problems and increasing human disturbance jeopardize swan nesting success.

Working closely with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Montana, and other conservation partners, we will be working to develop a model program to minimize damage to swan habitat from fish conservation efforts and seek ways to improve swan habitat where possible. We will also be working with private landowners and public land managers to improve water levels and reduce disturbance of swans in historic habitats.

Trumpeter Pair in the Centennial Valley by Jess Lee http://www.jessleephotos.com

The Trumpeter Swan Society May 2012 Photograph of the Month

May 11, 2012

Dawn on the Madison: Trumpeter Swan , Cygnus buccinator© by Jeff Wendorff

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Jeff’s image of the Trumpeter Swan on the Yellowstone’s Madison River shows the importance of positioning yourself to get the optimum chance for a great photograph and the timing to accentuate different colors during that “sweet” light of early morning or late afternoon.  And having led many tours to Yellowstone myself, Jeff’s shot just exemplifies the knowledge of how to get a “natural moment” shot.

I know all of us have been to parks where a wildlife sighting is cause for most everyone to rush to the subject and click away.  And there are times (mating, dominance etc.) where it is appropriate to subtly and safely approach your subject and try to capture the moment.

But in the world of wildlife photography, you usually get your best shots by planning your time in the field (early morning when wildlife is beginning daytime activities or early evening when nocturnal wildlife start to forage) and also knowing the habits of your subject.

Jeff took the time to get into the field at dawn prior to sunrise.  Without having done that, the pink pastel reflection on the water would have been long gone and not even be a possibility for inclusion in the photograph.  We have all seen how rapidly a sky (and its reflected color) can disappear or change.

Most very good wildlife photographers know that it is usually best to let the wildlife come to you.  You will get a more relaxed pose from the subject, and you will see actions that are natural and not necessarily based on the animal’s response to your presence.  For me, this is the number one rule to follow to get the “natural moment” photograph!

Jeff also used a long lens which brought the foreground reflection and water into focus along with the swan.  Notice how the background fades into “nothingness”, thereby not taking away from the focal point of the photograph.

An obvious personal decision of the photographer is always where to put your subject in the photograph?  We have discussed the rule of thirds in the past regarding placement of your subject as Jeff has followed.  But Jeff’s decision on whether to include the reflection or not is a personal one.

If Jeff had decided to crop the reflection out of the photo, there still would be a partial reflection – and that might appear “awkward”.  To make your own decision, hold you hand away from your face and towards Jeff’s picture on the monitor.  Now move you hand up and down to see the different compositions with the reflection, without and partial.  As I did this, it made me very aware that Jeff’s decision to include the complete reflection was the most appealing to my perspective.

Jeff saw the opportunity of the swan moving down river and used his capabilities as a photographer to position himself to capture an outstanding swan photograph with the sky reflecting on the water!

The Life History Moment

A movement that could only be captured in a burst of photographs or a movie would show that Trumpeter Swan heads are not static when they are on the water.  Jeff’s shot shows just one position of the bird he was photographing – extended.

“Trumpeter Swans frequently bob their head and necks up and down (head bobbing). With this motion they also have a variety of vocalizations. This combined activity apparently serves as a form of communication between individuals and within the group. Head bobbing and vocalization activity increase when the birds are disturbed and reaches maximum intensity just prior to the birds taking flight. This behavior may be brief or absent if the birds are suddenly startled and take flight.”

Featured Photographer for May, 2012 – Jeff Wendorff, State of Louisiana

From Jeff:  Nature Photographer, Workshop Leader, Writer

I’ve been a professional photographer for almost 10 years and my focus is on the natural world. I have a particular passion for photographing birds, but am very opportunistic and when a moment presents itself, I try to capture it. That was particularly true with this Trumpeter Swan image.

Jeff’s work has been widely published from books and magazines to cans of cat food in China. He leads photography workshops throughout the year focusing on birds and nature photography. Jeff lives in New Orleans and is finishing his first book, Photographing New Orleans, to be published this fall.

You can read about all of his antics, workshops and photography at http://www.jeffwendorff.com.

About the Photo:

From Jeff:  It was taken in Yellowstone last winter and we were there primarily for the big game in winter. On our way in to the park along the Madison, we came upon a lone swan swimming in the river. We were able to move ahead and pull off of the road and get our gear ready for the swans arrival. It was one of those magical moments, when the subject came in to range and the sunlight cast a perfect pink glow of the dawn on the swan and the Madison River.

We are pleased that Jeff was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

Remembering a Founding Father of The Trumpeter Swan Society, Peter Ward

May 4, 2012

Peter Ward at the Delta Waterfowl Research Station

Peter Ward was one of the founding fathers of The Trumpeter Swan Society in 1968.  He died suddenly on March 24 at the age of 92 in his home in Portagela Prairie, Manitoba.  Up until last May, Peter had been an integral part of the Delta Marsh for decades – “Delta Waterfowl’s ‘legend-in-residence.’”  The following is from Delta Waterfowl’s Web site:

“Peter first went to Delta Marsh in 1926 as the six-year-old son of gamekeeper Edward Ward. After serving as a bomber pilot and flight instructor with the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, Peter attended art school; then returned to the Delta Duck Station where he handled a variety of duties over the next 60 years. Despite having no formal training, he worked side-by-side with Albert Hochbaum, Lyle Sowls, Art Hawkins and other notable researchers on numerous ground-breaking advances in waterfowl science. Peter managed Delta’s hatchery facilities and played a key role in establishing the early breeding population and habitat surveys.”

In the late 1960s, Fred King, Chairman of the Hennepin County Park Reserve District, was keen on restoring Trumpeter Swans to Minnesota, in particular to the Park Reserve District west of Minneapolis.  Through his friendship with Ford and Charlie Bell of Minneapolis, Fred met Albert Hochbaum and Peter Ward of the Delta Waterfowl Research Station just north of Portagela Prairie.  Fred wanted Al’s and Peter’s good counsel on Trumpeters, since they had experience in raising these birds in captivity.

As Dave Weaver wrote in A History of The Trumpeter Swan Society in 2008, Fred King attributed the suggestion for a Trumpeter Swan Society to Al Hochbaum. The idea received an enthusiastic response from Fred, Peter Ward, and the other founders who had met in September 1968 to discuss the Hennepin Parks swan restoration project.

Peter Ward was always very generous with his knowledge about Trumpeters and was important in the initial efforts of Trumpeter restoration in Hennepin Parks.  When Dave Weaver spoke with him in 2008 while researching his TTSS history paper, Peter assured Dave that every Trumpeter “start up” flock had the Delta bloodline.  This was prior to using Red Rock Lakes NWR and Alaska as sources of eggs and cygnets.

With Peter hosting, the 4th Trumpeter Swan Society Conference was held in 1974 at the Delta Waterfowl Research Station, now known as Delta Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Station.  A subsequent meeting of the Society’s Board of Directors was held there a year or two later.

Peter’s obituary, written by one of his children, speaks of his love of the natural world around him, especially the marsh:  “He lived the rest of his life surrounded by the marsh, and his life’s work of paintings attest to how much he loved, understood and appreciated this life. His contributions to the world of wildlife, waterfowl, and art will not be forgotten.”

“I have no quarrel with the life I’ve led, longer and freer than most. A better person I might have been, if a roadmap for such existed.”

- An excerpt from the Memoirs of Peter Ward, unpublished.

New Video Highlights the Strong Relationship Between Trumpeter Swans and Dairy Farms in Washington State

April 29, 2012

Trumpeter Swans Feed on Field Corn at one Washington State's Dairy Farms
Photo by Art Wolfe

Writer and naturalist Jenn Dean of Washington’s Snoqualmie Valley has produced a five-minute video that will bring current issues of Trumpeter Swans wintering in western Washington to the forefront. With engaging footage of both Trumpeter Swans and dairy cows, she points to their direct relationship. Martha Jordan, former TTSS Board member and current Chair of the Washington Swan Stewards, estimates as many as 85% of Trumpeters in Washington are currently dairy dependent. They thrive on waste corn.  Jenn interviews dairy farmer Andy Werkhoven, who with his brother Jim, has been in the dairy business, farming, for thirty years.  He details the increase of sightings over the last ten years, a period in which Pacific Coast Population numbers have climbed. Washington may now host some 27,000 Trumpeters in winter, so their future is integrally tied to the future of rural land and dairy farms. While death from ingestion of lead pellets has claimed some 2300 Trumpeters over the last decade, Martha Jordan feels that loss of habitat is an equal threat to future swan populations.  Watch Jenn Dean’s video for further detail.  TTSS thanks Jenn Dean for her work in making this video to help the public understand issues that face swans, and The Trumpeter Swan Society’s role in assuring their present and future security.

Washington Swan Stewards Swan Rescue Response Team, An Update from the Field

April 25, 2012

Washington Swan Stewards Response Team Captures M35

Spring has arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  The swans were about a week late in leaving this year and as of early April; a few were still hanging around.

In early April, Martha Jordan, former TTSS Board of Directors and current Chair, Washington Swan Stewards, noticed a pair of swans hanging around a chain of ponds at a well-known dog retriever training area east of Redmond, WA.  Two weeks later there was only one swan in the back pond of the property, a clear sign something was wrong. A quick view with her scope revealed this swan had a damaged wing and could not fly.  Martha and her colleagues mounted a rescue effort the following day.

It proved to be a major operation. Due to the topography of the area and the determination of this swan to remain free, it took seven people and two boats to capture the swan.  Martha tells us, “Mostly we stood on shore to keep the bird in the water, and then the people in the power boat were able to net the swan.  The swan is currently at a rehabilitation facility being evaluated and treated.  If all goes well, the bird will have surgery that will allow the swan to live a quality life in captivity.”

TTSS thanks Puget Sound Energy’s Mel Walters and two staff members, and volunteers from the local retriever hunting community who assisted us in making the capture go smoothly and quickly.

To make these captures possible it takes people and equipment. Although they have a portable Zodiac inflatable, this response team still needs other equipment including additional capture nets, another swan hook, and a car top boat such as an Aqua pod.  You can help support the Washington Swan Steward’s swan rescue response efforts with a donation to TTSS for the Washington Swan Steward’s Swan Rescue Fund.  Donations can be mailed to our main office in Minnesota (12615 County Road 9, Plymouth, MN 55441) or made online at www.trumpeterswansociety.org.

A mid-April Addendum from Martha Jordan

In May, 2011, TTSS and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released two captive reared Trumpeter Swan yearlings, M35 and M36 into the wild.  It was an experiment to see if Trumpeter Swans could live in an urban setting with lots of lakes and homes. Problems occurred when one of the swans began regularly showing aggression to humans, so ahead of the breeding season almost a year later, WDFW and TTSS decided that the two swans must be caught and returned to captivity both for human safety as well as their own. 

 Thus began the Washington Swan Stewards attempts to catch these free spirited, free flying youngsters.  The person who had been watching over them and feeding them all year was very helpful since M36 came up to him on a regular basis.  Martha says, “We lured the swan up onto the lawn using decoys. While M36 was busy posturing in a turf battle with the decoys I netted him. M35 proved to be more elusive since he did not keep a regular schedule and was now hanging out on Long Lake, about 1 mile away.  I recruited some great volunteers from the local area who had helped last year with the release and who had experience with Mute Swan captures.  Russ McMillan and Chris Maynard took their small boat over to Long Lake to look for the swan.  Just after I left them at the boat launch they called to tell me that M35 was standing on the launch area about 5 feet from them.  I suggested that if they could get the swan within a foot of them they could likely attempt a hand capture.  What happened next was creative thinking at its best.  When I arrived back at the boat launch I found Chris lying on the ground holding the swan with a white blanket covering its head.  The photo says it all for how this went down: Russ under blanket, Chris behind.  They lured the swan about 10 more feet up the boat launch where Chris lay on the ground. Russ wiggling under the blanket got M35 to come up to him out of curiosity.  Chris rolled up and put his arms around the swan. Capture accomplished.”

Both swans are now safely in captivity. They will be placed in captive breeding programs where their new mates await them.  The Washington Swan Stewards thank WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Michelle Tihri for all her time and assistance, and all those that volunteered, Russ McMillan, Chris Maynard, Paul Fischbach and avian veterinarian Scott Ford.  A special thank you to Larry James for the year he spent making sure the boys were looked after during their wild year.

 

 

Remembering Harold H. Burgess, Trumpeter Swan Society Past President and Board of Directors

April 16, 2012

Last month, members, Board members and staff of The Trumpeter Swan Society were saddened to hear of the death of Harold Burgess.  Harold served on the Society’s Board of Directors and as President of TTSS for two terms. He was recently honored by the Society as one of the first recipients of the TTSS George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Award.  A copy of his obituary follows:

Harold H, Burgess

Harold H. Burgess died Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Weslaco, TX, at age 94.  He was born in 1917 at Cedardale, Michigan.  Survivors include his children Thomas, Mary and Barbara, son-in-law Terry, grandchildren David, Hannah, and Betsy, granddaughter-in-law Crystal.  His wife Ruth; his parents Guy and Mary; his brothers Henry, Fred, Robert, Eugene, and James precede him in death.

After graduation from Deckerville High School, Harold served with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Upper Michigan.  He graduated from Michigan State College with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry.  In 1942, he became a superintendent at Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia, West Africa.  While traveling through the Liberian hinterland, he met his future wife, Ruth Longstaff, at Ganta Mission.

Returning to Michigan State College, he finished his Masters in Zoology.  After enlisting in the 8th Army Engineers, he married Ruth in December 1947 and served as a forestry adviser in Korea and later as an agriculture adviser in Japan.

In 1950 he began 30 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, managing four National Wildlife Refuges of the Missouri-Mississippi watershed in succession, completing his career at the Area Office in North Kansas City, Missouri.  For a second 30 years after retirement, he volunteered at various nature sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and state parks.  Those in Texas included Laguna Atascosa NWR, Lower Rio Grande NWR, Santa Ana NWR, Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park.  He also took part in the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, Elder Hostel programs, as well as both the Frontera and the Rio Grande Valley Audubon Societies.  Harold received The Valley Nature Center’s “Outstanding Naturalist Award” for 2002.

Though interested in all birds, Harold considered himself an avian ecologist rather than an ornithologist.  After initial work with pheasants in Michigan, his career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed projects improving the habitat of specific waterfowl at various National Wildlife Refuges.  At Upper Mississippi  (WI) he worked with Wood Ducks; at Union Slough ( IA), Blue-Winged Teal; at Squaw Creek (MO), Snow Geese and Canada Geese; and at Lacreek (SD), Trumpeter Swans.  Even in retirement on the Lower Rio Grande, he added another specialty:  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

However, Harold had found his passion to be with Trumpeter Swans.  Trumpeters had nearly gone extinct in the 48 states by the 1930s.  The ensuing work of the Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving this nesting population, was extended by The Trumpeter Swan Society, whose mission is to restore the species to its previously existing breeding and migration ranges.  After retirement in 1980 he volunteered with The Trumpeter Swan Society, serving on the board of directors and two terms as president.

In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to consider making a donation to or becoming members of The Trumpeter Swan Society.  http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org   The family will appreciate cards and reminiscences from Harold’s many friends.  A memorial is planned later this spring and is open to the public.  It will take place June 16, 2012, at 2 PM at The Valley Nature Center, 301 S. Border Ave, Weslaco, (956) 969-2475.

The Trumpeter Swan Society April 2012 Photograph of the Month

April 11, 2012

Trumpeter Swan Flight Into Fall Color© by Mark Paulson

NEW FEATURE ADDED TO PHOTO-OF-THE-MONTHSEE BELOW!!!

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Mark’s image of the pair of Trumpeter Swans flying in front of the fall color shows a “planned” opportunity to share two very different subjects with the intent of highlighting the swans in the foreground.

Mark focused his camera on the swans, which was the planned highlight in the photo.  Each bird is in detailed focus including the eyes, wings and feet.

When you look at the background of exceedingly bright-colored foliage, it is muted.  This soft focus on the trees allows their color to come through and highlight the swans without the distraction of other objects stealing the focus.

The composition of the birds on the left side of the photo is a slightly different interpretation of the rule of thirds.  It is usually more appealing to the viewer to have the subject in either the left or right third of the photograph as opposed to the center.  In fact Mark’s swan’s heads are dead center in the photograph, which would appear to refute the rule.  But it is body of the swans that makes the rule of thirds work.  The head and neck of both birds are such a small component of the photograph, and this creates the effect with the bird’s bodies fitting the rule of thirds!

All of the above can happen with the focal length of the lens, but Mark saw the opportunity to put himself in a position to the have swans in the foreground and those trees in the background.  And it worked with exceptional results!

The Life History Moment

Waterfowl (including swans), cormorants, cranes and some shorebirds (and there may be other long distance diurnal migrants) utilize flight technics that essentially minimize impacts to the individual and spread the physical outlay to the other(s) in the flight.  With Mark’s pair of swans we do not see them flying side-by-side or one directly in front of the other.  We see the second bird behind and to the side of the lead bird.  This helps in two ways: First they are minimizing any potential accidental contact while flying (this would certainly help in trying to escape a predator!).  And second, the lead bird is “cutting” a hole in the wall of the air they are flying through.

In other words, like automobile racing, the second car does not have to expend as much fuel as the lead car does to achieve the same speed.  Of course they are built just a bit different than those cars, and it is because of the wings that they fly behind, but off to the side.  When that lead birds tires a little, the second bird will head to the front and the lead bird than reduces the amount of energy it utilizes (aka taking a breather).

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mark Paulson, State of Minnesota

From Mark:

“My current focus is on capturing perspectives of the natural world, concentrating on images of nature, wildlife and travel (the world). The experience of getting to and capturing the beauty of nature and the wildlife is a large part of my personal experience in photographing their imagery. Actually making the photograph to capture the scene, so it can be shared with others, is the other component I enjoy. I work to find the unique or different perspective when making photographs, giving the viewers a sense of the place that I experienced when making the images.”

Mark is a long time resident of the Lake Minnetonka area of Minnesota and has been taking photographs since the mid-1980s. Mark has taken several award-winning photographs and his work has been published in books and regional magazines and exhibited in local galleries. Mark has traveled extensively to numerous locations in the United States as well as many international destinations including: China, Egypt, Southern Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Fiji, Greece, Argentina, Japan, throughout Western Europe, various islands in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, etc. and has an extensive portfolio of photographs from these locales.

You can find Mark’s images at

http://www.mpaulsonphotography.com

About the Photo:

From Mark: “This image of the Trumpeter Swan pair was taken at Baker Park in Minnesota, (location of TTSS headquarters). There is a small pond in the park where Trumpeter Swans gather. I try to get images of the swans in flight, and especially during autumn, when the surrounding trees provide a colorful background to highlight the white swans. “

We are pleased that Mark was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.

The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2012 Photograph of the Month

February 10, 2012

"Angelic" Trumpeter Swan by Mike Lentz

NEW FEATURE ADDED TO PHOTO-OF-THE-MONTH

SEE BELOW!!!

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo-of-the-Month host Greg Smith says:

Mike’s image of the Trumpeter Swan flapping its wings early on a misty morning provides us the prospect of how to use misty weather to enhance a photograph.

Mike titles this “Angelic” and the ethereal feeling the mist adds to the picture has something to do with that title.  First thing we notice beyond the swan is the bokeh (we discussed how to accomplish this in an earlier version of Photo-of-the-Month), that muted blue and white area in the background without any focus.  The focal length of Mike’s lens adds to this, but the mist coming off of the river also softens the background and allows, actually makes the viewer focus on the bird.

The effect of the mist on the swan is subtle, but really does add to the photo!  First, notice that the eye and the rust on the head are tack sharp in focus, not being affected by the mist!  This draws the viewer to the bird and makes the initial contact.

The next aspect that your eye wanders to is the flight feathers or primaries on the wings.  The feather shafts are all visible, the feather edges are almost crisp but not blurred and while the secondaries become a little muted.  But when you look at the body feathers they are really muted without defined focus.

All of the above can happen with the focus of the lens, but I think it is the mist that makes these features so “angelic”.  And the reason for that is that the head and the breast/body feathers are on the same focal plane – or the same distance from Mike and his lens.  So the breast should have the same focus detail as the head and eyes – it doesn’t!

Mike saw the opportunity with mist rising from the river and used his capabilities as a photographer to create an outstanding photograph!

The Life History Moment

There are a few reasons we see swans (and other waterfowl) rise up and flap their wings without taking flight.  One could be that the swan had just finished preening and flapping the wings allows any “ruffled” feathers to fall in place.  There is also the opportunity to shake any water from the feathers, whether from foraging, droplets from the mist or as Mike describes below, it just finished a short bath.  There is also the thought out there that wing flapping shows dominance (perceived or otherwise?) relevant to other swans in the area.  Any other thoughts out there as to why swans might do this?

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mike Lentz, State of Minnesota

Mike specializes in nature photography and nature photo instruction.  The world of natural history has always been a love of his, as is photography, and combining the two only seemed fitting.  You can find Mike’s images on:

www.mikelentzphotography.com

www.pbase.com/mike_lentz

About the Photo:

From Mike: “I was on the Mississippi River laying on the shoreline with many Trumpeters.  I spent most of my time concentrating my efforts on the individual birds.  This was a very cold day, it was -18 when I got out of my car and when I walked down to my spot and saw all the steam I knew the chance to capture a special image was possible.  In this moment the swan had just dipped in the water multiple times and was just opening up to do a flap his/her wings. “

We are pleased that Mike was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. 


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