Trumpeter Swans are known for the intensity of their pair bond, which serves them well in the tenacity needed to care for large yet still vulnerable young. Trumpeter parents invest a great deal in parenting, taking care of large offspring for much of a year. You can read more about their strong attachment on our website, in the section by biologist Ruth Shea; The Key to Understanding Trumpeter Swans.
Keeping pace with Valentine’s Day celebrations of pair bonds, we recognize a couple who have strengthened their bond by sharing a passion – their mutual love for Trumpeter Swans. The title of a recent Hamilton Spectator news article featuring Ontario’s Beverly and Ray Kingdon says it all: “Volunteers pour hearts into safeguarding revival of Trumpeters.”
Working in winter in Ontario, Canada, the Kingdons are as tenacious as the birds. Nearly every winter day finds them pursuing their hands-on passion. Together, they capture and release Trumpeters into cold winter waters of Ontario’s lakes. In the last 5 years, Bev and Ray have marked and banded over 400 Trumpeter Swans. To accomplish this, they feed the swans 4,000 kg (almost 9000 lbs!) of corn each winter. After work, they do a lot of laundry. These are not typical pair-bonding tasks, but for this intrepid pair of sweethearts – it works!
Since 1993, Bev and Ray have helped former Environment Minister and TTSS Board Member, Harry Lumsden, monitor Ontario’s efforts to recover the magnificent Trumpeter Swan. Theirs is physical work. At LaSalle Park, they first feed Trumpeters so they become tame enough to be tagged. The captures are done by hand, which requires skill and care. The operation is often accompanied by riotous splashing or a dunk (for one or the other) in ice-cold water. Ray reports, “the tagged birds don’t hold a grudge and soon return to be fed again.” Bev keeps detailed records of who’s who and who’s from where, which she shares here on our TTSS Blog.
The Kingdons are a good team. Ray does much of the wrestling, competently straddling the bird to minimize its stress. They work fast, often with the help of friend Kyna Intini. They use a numbered metal band provided by the Canadian Wildlife Service that they secure on a swan’s leg with special pliers. They also attach a yellow wing tag (see previous Blog posting on wing tags) with a black three-number/letter combination unique to each Trumpeter. These can be observed at a distance, enabling biologists to track their movements in Ontario and beyond.
Bev and Ray have been married for close to 50 years. Their passion for Trumpeter Swans started 26 years ago when they took responsibility for a pair of captive Trumpeters on their farm in northern Ontario. The cygnets produced by this pair were released to fly free as part of the Ontario restoration project. We applaud their many hours of dedicated volunteer work to insure the security and vitality of wild Trumpeter Swans.
We thank C.J. Metcalf, of Norman, Oklahoma, for sharing this wonderful photo, appropriately entitled “Sweethearts.” Find more of her photographs here.