Archive for September, 2009

Road Improvements at Red Rock Lakes NWR – A boost for Trumpeter Swans, their managers & watchers

September 27, 2009
Access to Red Rock Lakes NWR improved - a benefit to Trumpeter Swans, their managers and watchers!  

Refuge managers are often called upon to accomplish many tasks. This is certainly true at remote Red Rock Lakes NWR, located three hours from any reasonable sized city or supply center.

Landscapes of Red Rock Lakes, the Centennial Valley and neighboring Madison Valley hold some of the grandest scenery on earth.  On glorious work days, manager Bill West may schedule a survey flight to monitor species targeted for management, or those of special concern. With biologist Jeff Warren, West will scan a maze of lush wetland habitat for Trumpeter Swans and Moose, studying a system still revealing its complexities.  Back on the ground there are reports to write and directives from Denver and Washington-based staff to heed. 

When the national Refuge Roads Coordinator asked all refuge staff to pay more attention to the condition of roads, regional staff and Mike Parker, past refuge manager, took this directive to heart.  West inherited teh project and has since overseen  a $700,000 project to improve access to Lower Red Rock Lakes. Refuge visitors will now more reliably be able to reach a primitive campground, boat launch and water impoundment structure as construction is wrapping up this week. He is proud of the project; one of three such projects in Montana designed to improve access to public land and paid for with Federal Highways funds. The other two sites are Montana’s Beartooth and Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Highways.

Crews have spent much of a year on what was often an impassible five mile stretch of road. They’ve allowed water to channel through new culverts and over concrete-lined water fords. With large equipment they’ve raised the roadbed, removed muck, and filled up to ¾ mile stretch of road at a time with gravel. A goal of the project was not to change the width or overall footprint of the road in keeping with the wilderness character of the refuge.

This project is done, but on completion, the workers won’t be going home. West was ‘shovel-ready’ this year as projects were called out for possible economic stimulus funding. Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act another $116,000 has been awarded to Red Rock Lakes to fund an important access link to another part of the refuge. Visitors will now have safe passage to walk to Sparrow Pond and Slough. A new bridge will be placed over Odell Creek where a condemned bridge precluded staff vehicle access to water control structures. These were needed to regulate flows to several ponds and wetlands, some which may benefit nesting Trumpeter Swans. Much of the future of Greater Yellowstone’s declining Trumpeter Swan population will be determined by productivity on this western side of the ecosystem. Dedication, attention to an opportunity such as the stimulus funding and a wide-gamut of behind-the-scenes work are all needed in the effort to secure this vulnerable population. This week at work, West will witness a parade coming down the road from Monida, one with a new bridge and the crane to emplace it.

Photo from a survey flight – by Bill West, Manager – Red Rock Lakes NWR


For an Alaskan Trumpeter Swan, a Happy Ending

September 12, 2009

Four kayakers from the Seward-based company Kayak Adventures Worldwide  recently teamed up with biologists

Alarmed Trumpeter Mate Takes to the Sky  photo: Wendy Doughty, Kayak Adventures Worldwide

Alarmed Trumpeter Mate Takes to the Sky photo: Wendy Doughty, Kayak Adventures Worldwide

from the Alaska Sealife Center (ASLC)  to rescue a Trumpeter Swan illegally shot and injured by a vandal’s bow and arrow. Answering a call to help from Heidi Cline, Avian Curator for the ASLC, co-owner Wendy Doughty got a show of support from four of her guides. In a quick response they closed the office and headed north to Tern Lake to volunteer their skills.

Years of paddling experience paid off as despite its injuries the swan proved to be wary, swift and strong. Its mate, alarmed, took to the sky. On a first attempt, the kayakers steered the swimming bird for close to a mile, into a narrow cove where biologists waited by a 70 ft. net strung for the capture. On seeing the net, the swan abruptly turned and swam rapidly the other direction, crossing one of the small islands in Tern Lake. The kayakers quickly reversed and came up with plan B in which they successfully moved the bird toward a shoreline. Here ASLC’s Tasha DiMarzio, senior aviculturist, jumped into the water to make the capture. The bird calmed under her experienced grasp.

Tern Lake is located at the busy intersection of the highway from Anchorage where it branches to Seward or Homer. Here, a small crowd gathered and several media people were on hand for the capture which lasted about an hour. Reporters from the Seward City News wrote: ‘“Its wing was pinned to its body,”’ said ACLC Stranding Coordinator Tim Lebling. Lebling described the target arrow as one shot at close range, piercing almost 10cm into the swan’s chest. Thankfully, it missed the swan’s vital organs.  

Now two weeks later, Tim Lebling reports to The Trumpeter Swan Society that the swan is back with its mate and doing

Trumpeter Rescue   photo: Wendy Doughty Kayak Adventures Worldwide

Trumpeter Rescue photo: Wendy Doughty Kayak Adventures Worldwide

well and that Heidi Cline has returned to see the bird actively foraging and mobile. Lebling says “our hopes are that it will lose the swelling and pain from the arrow and regain strength by October when they usually migrate from that particular lake. The ASLC will continue to monitor both swans until then.” If twenty-three pounds of fast-moving Trumpeter captured the admiration of the rescuers, their actions certainly inspire ours. The care and concern expressed by the community for this individual Trumpeter certainly bodes well for our efforts to restore and secure Trumpeter Swan populations continent-wide. Visit us at for more details on our work with this magnificent species.

Trumpeter Swan Society Photo of the Month Sept. 2009

September 1, 2009
Symmetry of Trumpeter Swans

Symmetry of Trumpeter Swans

Professional Photographer and TTSS Photo of the month Greg Smith says:      

What jumps out in this photograph is the symmetry of the four birds with outstretched necks.  The second aspect that captures your attention is that all four birds are in crisp focus and looking in slightly different directions.  It is only when your gaze lingers that you notice the reflections on the calm water.  The russet necks complement the blue and the horizontal format does wonders for what would normally be a vertical shot.  Ed’s capture of these four swans utilized composition, lighting, exposure and depth of field to create an outstanding art print!

Featured Photographer of the Month – Ed Post       

Ed Post became a serious photographer in 1990 after attending a week-long nature photography workshop. Ed now leads annual workshops and photo tours. He is also a frequent lecturer on nature and landscape photography. His work ahs been widely published and he has received honors and awards in contests and exhibitions. Ed also lends a hand to the busy photography staff of his hometown newspaper by accepting assignments to cover sports, features and breaking news. Enjoy more of Ed’s work displayed at