Archive for November, 2009

USFWS Biologist Shilo Comeau reports to TTSS from Martin, South Dakota:

November 25, 2009

High Plains Trumpeter Swan FlockDuring the 2009 survey, biologists counted a record-high 523 swans in the High Plains Flock (HPF). This is an increase of 22% from the 2008 estimate (Fig. 2), and was primarily the result of a higher number of cygnets and breeding pairs observed (Table 1). The number of breeding pairs increased, and correspondingly so did the number of broods and average brood size. However, the number of non-breeding pairs remained relatively stable (71 to 72). The 2009 results are above the 20-year average for total birds (298 ± 21), white birds (213 ±1), and cygnets (86 ±6). The Flock continues to experience a positive growth rate of 4.8% annually from 1990 to 2009 (Fig. 3). The overall production of cygnets increased this year and the index of production rate (i.e., cygnets/white birds) was (0.49) compared to the long-term average (0.44). The specific results for each category are listed in Table 1.

The number of swans counted this year is the highest on record for the HPF and this was attributed to an increase in breeding pairs and cygnet production. All the production parameters for this flock increased, including the number of breeding pairs and average brood size. This increase in production could be attributed to the coinciding factors of a large number of white birds becoming reproductively active and an improvement in habitat quality.

The full report can be found at


November 11, 2009
Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David. K. Weaver

Photo: Three Trumpeter Swan Cygnets by David K. Weaver

On the road some 300 days a year lecturing as an advocate for wildlife, Dr. Jane Goodall discovers many fascinating stories of endangered species and the people who have labored to save them.  In her latest book, Hope for Animals and Their World: How Endangered Species Are Being Rescued from the Brink, Dr. Goodall chronicles many of these inspiring efforts.

With co-authors Thayne Maynard and Gail Hudson,  she has collected the stories into a 392 page volume that focuses on the very most endangered species in the world.  On her associated website, Hope for Animals and Their World, she highlights additional species, including the Trumpeter Swan.  You’ll find rich descriptions of her personal experiences with Trumpeters portrayed in prose. She describes standing close to them, the sounds they make, the size of their feet.

Jane Goodall chronicles the decline of Trumpeters and the establishment of The Trumpeter Swan Society, which began with a small group of dedicated individuals committed to the swan’s secure restoration.  She writes about a mid-1970’s TTSS conference near Yellowstone where managers weighed the merits of restrained populations held by the tether of winter feed. In attendance was Ruth Shea, currently a TTSS Director. Listening to those how envisioned had a larger vision, one that has fueled a life passion and years of professional work with swans. Ruth’s vision and life story resonates with Dr. Goodall’s. Both have experienced intense field research time that inspired them to become advocates for their species.

Dr. Goodall continues with the 1960 launch of Trumpeter restoration at LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge, located in South Dakota on the border of Nebraska. She describes a personal visit to the area, guided by biologists Tom Koerner and Shilo Comeau on a bitter cold day. She shares rich memories of seeing two swans in flight.

 She goes on to describe restoration in western Montana, and gives a great description of swan biologist Greg Neudecker, a former University of Minnesota football player.  Greg is quite at home handling tenacious swans, working with conservation-minded landowners, and inspiring public participation in restoration efforts. Applauding that Trumpeter restoration success is possible in a region where high quality wetlands are held by private ranchlands, author and activist Jane Goodall says that nowhere on Earth is there a better model for conservation than the Blackfoot program.

Her closing section holds a sweeping quote from TTSS’ Ruth Shea who concludes that the Trumpeter Swan “was nearly destroyed by the unthinking actions of many people across North America. But it also was restored by the thoughtful and dedicated actions of many people, who shared a common vision and worked together.

If you share this vision, please take action! Join TTSS and help us be more effective today!

ANNOUNCING: Trumpeter Watch

November 2, 2009

A Citizen-Science Project to Monitor Winter Trumpeter Swan Distribution
YOU CAN HELP!! Nov 1, 2009 – May 1, 2010

Swans Dancing

Photo by Arnie Frederickson

Improving winter security is a TTSS strategic goal for Trumpeters coast to coast. This year, we plan to closely monitor Interior Population Trumpeter Swans. You can help! Join our network of volunteer observers to document the changing winter distribution of Trumpeter Swans in the following states: NE, KS, OK, TX, eastern NM & CO, MO, AR, IL, IN, KY, TN, LA, MS, AL, VA, MD, and DE (or any other Interior or Atlantic State where Trumpeter Swans are observed).

The task of restoring Interior Population Trumpeters has been highly successful but is not yet done. As northern breeding flocks expand, increasing numbers of Trumpeters are pioneering towards historic wintering areas south of the 40th parallel. Trumpeters are showing up in places they have not frequented for over 100 years. Little is known about the numbers of southward migrants, the habitats they use, or the conditions that they are encountering.

TTSS has launched Trumpeter Watch, a citizen science program to help track Trumpeters on the move as they explore and use new winter habitat. TTSS is reaching out to members and active birders to submit winter observations of Trumpeter Swans and the habitats that they are using.  Trumpeter Watch will serve as an effective information system into which observers can report sightings.

As of Nov. 1st, we have observers registered in five states, and our first sightings reports have been sent in by David Rogles of Missouri. He spotted 10 Trumpeters arriving at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, an Audubon Important Bird Area (IBA). Dave reports that numerous swans in the past have stopped here during migration and last winter they had 360 or more swans over-wintering. Thanks to David for being our first registered participant in Trumpeter Watch to report!

Summarized data from the winter sightings will be given to managers and presented on our website to help document the current winter distribution of Trumpeters as they move southward and identify potential over-wintering sites. It is our hope that details of current use patterns and the habitats used will help provide a solid foundation for management efforts to rebuild more secure winter distributions.

WHY IS YOUR HELP NEEDED?♦ By 1900, Trumpeter Swans were extirpated from nesting and wintering areas in Central and Eastern North America. Lost with the swans was their historic knowledge of migration routes and southern wintering sites. For Trumpeters, migration is mostly a behavior learned from experienced adults. Therefore, reestablishing traditional historic patterns is difficult.

♦ In recent decades, wild nesting populations of Trumpeters have been successfully restored in several northerly states and Ontario. Most swans now winter near their northern breeding areas, but an unknown number are pioneering southward and beginning to establish use of more southerly wintering sites.

♦ Little is known regarding the numbers and groupings of southward migrants, the location and characteristics of sites they are pioneering, duration of use, or problems they may be encountering.

♦ By providing information through Trumpeter Watch, observers can help document the changing distribution of wintering Trumpeter Swans and help identify potential new southerly wintering sites.

We ask you to REGISTER for Trumpeter Watch
You can do so online at Observers report any first observation of a Trumpeter Swan at a new location to us as soon as possible, using our Trumpeter Watch OBSERVATION FORM.   Regular watchers submit a summary of observations to us by the 10th of each month throughout the study period. We want to document key habitat information as well as details about the swans.