Archive for February, 2010


February 27, 2010

We’re very pleased we decided to pioneer Trumpeter Watch in this particular year. Despite lean times for nonprofits and no firm budget set aside for the project, we felt a sense of urgency. In this we were right on the mark.

Chuck Otte, Listserv (KSBIRDS-L) owner and upcoming author on bird distribution in Kansas describes what he calls an “inundation of Trumpeter sightings” since the first of the year. He notes six first county records for Kansas over the last two winters; two have occurred in the last few weeks. From Missouri, David Rogles reports record numbers (counts of over 500) of Trumpeters overwintering near West Alton at Riverlands. Another Missouri observer reported a collared bird (Red 8M5) for which Dave Hoffman (Iowa Department of Natural Resources) gave its history: this bird was born in 2007, spent the next 2 years in Iowa in two different counties, and then appeared near Vernon, Missouri, in 2010, with an unmarked partner.

Mary Bote has kept close tabs on Oklahoma where Trumpeters are showing up across the state, now reported from 11 separate geographic areas. Karen Rowe (Arkansas Fish and Game Commission) notes a lot of action in Arkansas, which she will be reporting to us in a summary at winter’s end. In Indiana, Ryan Sanderson reported a family of five swans in Clay County, four of them had collars traceable to Wisconsin. While the Memphis Zoo is proud to add captive Trumpeters to its new Yellowstone exhibit, birders are excited that wild Trumpeters appeared in recent weeks along the Tennessee-Arkansas border.

We’ve had reports of note from throughout the Trumpeter Watch area. A red-collared bird (6H5) reported by Joy Colbert of Cadiz in Trigg County, Kentucky, originated in Iowa. Some of you may remember the excitement caused by Trumpeters being tallied on a Virginia Christmas Bird Count last year. This year, three collared individuals were found in Virginia likely coming from two sources – Iowa and Wisconsin.

Out west, SeEtta Moss reported two adult Trumpeters near Canon City, Colorado in December. South of that, Narca Moore-Craig, artist and Business Member of TTSS, had us contact Cathie Sandall at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in Socorro, New Mexico, who has since kept close tabs on a surviving juvenile, one of two observed there this winter.

What we are learning is that swans are pioneering into new areas and will need to be included in waterfowl management plans for these areas. As we receive and analyze more data, we expect more exciting discoveries.

Photo: Trumpeter Swans on Ice by Gretchen Steele

The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) Salutes Two Sweethearts

February 13, 2010

"Sweethearts " Trumpeter Swans by CJ Metcalf

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 projectWe 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.

Iowa Releases Trumpeter Swans Third Year at Holla Bend NWR

February 11, 2010

Iowa Swans in Release Pen Await Journey to Arkansas

Ron Andrews coordinates Iowa’s Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program. He also serves on The Trumpeter Swan Society’s  Board of Directors. With characteristic enthusiasm, on February 10th, Andrews led a parade of cars from the Visitor’s Center at Arkansas’ Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge (HBNWR) to a release site near the Arkansas River on the refuge. He looked pretty fresh, considering he and Dave Hoffman, DNR Wildlife Technician, had chauffeured a rowdy crowd of 1st-year Trumpeters down the Interstate Highways the previous day from Iowa. Sixteen teenagers of any sort exude energy – can you imagine the trumpeting on this parade?

Sixteen Trumpeter Swans met 16 citizens willing to help with this third release of Trumpeters as part of a migration experiment. Joe Neal reports he arrived to snow on the ground, and forgetting his coat, had to stuff a blanket under his shirt. When Karen Rowe of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission handed him a 25-pound Trumpeter, he welcomed the pleasant warmth. He describes it this way:  “You first must hold their feet tightly – web feet the size of my hands. You firmly hug ‘em to keep that 8-foot wing span closed. Then there is the famous trumpet, a very, very long neck with an anxious, intelligent dark-eyed creature winding it around your neck, over your head, serpent-like, watching all, honking and hissing, way, way ready for release. Even standing in the snow and coatless, I was quite warm and fully employed hanging on to my swan!”

Biologists hope that these young swans got their compass bearings while in Iowa.  Now released in Arkansas’ milder winter terrain, it is hoped they will imprint on this area as well, before spring restlessness leads them off to wing their way north. We hope these members of a growing Interior Population of Trumpeters will establish a migration between Iowa and Arkansas. 

Many Trumpeter Swans have no experience migrating.  Knowledge of routes, potential safe resting areas along the way and wintering areas are learned from parents.  Restoration flocks don’t have this traditional information.  Managers hope this experiment will result in new migration traditions.  Andrews feels that Iowa’s population is on the verge of being self-sustaining, citing 40 nesting pair in 2009!  The potential option of wintering in Arkansas helps secure their future.

Swan fans get ready! First-year birds have distinctive dark gray heads. We hope that anyone in states near or south of the 40th parallel will report sightings of these birds when they move. For 2 years, they have been released at HBNWR and on the Buffalo National River; this year there was just one release on the refuge.  A total of 51 Trumpeter Swans have been released over the 3 years.  All have been marked with green collars with a three-character code that can be used to identify an individual.  All have corresponding leg bands as well as standard USGS metal leg bands.  Anyone who sees one of the green-collared birds is encouraged to read the numbers and letter on the collar or band and report it on The Trumpeter Swan Society website

More observations are needed to know if reverse migration will succeed.  It’s an exciting time and you can be part of it by registering to be an observer through TRUMPETER WATCH.

 Photo: Iowa Department of Natural Resources   

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month February, 2010

February 3, 2010
Trumpeter Swan Pair bJerry Hogeboom

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

Jerry’s photo of the two Trumpeter Swans captures so many of the traits that attract us to these magnificent birds. The graceful curves of the necks and wings, and the position of the two birds seemingly acknowledge the lifelong pair bond. Jerry’s choice not to do any post-processing sharpening of the photo, while inappropriate in some circles, actually adds to the fog-bound lighting and the overall saturation of the photo. If the birds had the usual sharpening, it would have been out of context given the surreal lighting in the photo. The fact that Jerry was able to position himself so that the blue water faded into the blue sky of the background just enhances the ghostly feeling of this outstanding photograph.

Featured Photographer for February, 2010 – Jerry Hogeboom, Minnesota 

Jerry is very active with photography and belongs to three photo clubs near his home in the Twin Cites area of Minnesota. He is a board member of the Twin Cities Area Council of Camera Clubs (TCACCC).  He tells us this about the photo, and his passion for photography.  “What you see in this original RAW format photograph (no post-processing) is what I saw through the viewfinder. It is these types of opportunities that for me seem to melt away the cold and stresses of in life. I love photography and have done everything from underwater to street to nature to weddings and portraits. My favorite though is nature photography. I enjoy getting outdoors for hiking, walking and exploring. To me, it’s very therapeutic, educational and it provides good exercise. I say educational because I typically research the subjects that I shoot. Winter wasn’t my favorite time of year but several years ago I made a decision to embrace the season and have been getting out and enjoying myself even on the coldest of days. This photo was taken on a cold day in February when localized fog was created by the warm water interfacing with the colder air. Seeing and photographing those Trumpeters was amazing.”