Archive for May, 2010

Trumpeter Swans and Climate Change

May 25, 2010

Trumpeter Swans and Climate Change

Trumpeter Swan by John Van Orman

The effects of climate change on Trumpeter Swan populations will likely be complex and will differ across their extensive range, which spans much of North America. Scientists have documented a shift in range for various species due to warming temperatures. As is the case with Trumpeters, as ranges shift northward, there can be different problems to the south.

If one looks only at Alaska, there could be a positive aspect of warming temperatures for Trumpeters. Earlier, we pointed you to Dr. Joshua Schmidt’s 2009 Journal of Wildlife Management article in which he summarized the 5-year survey data showing Trumpeter Swans successfully breeding farther north in Alaska. He notes the possibility that northward range expansion in recent years may be due in part to climate change, citing a nearly 12-day increase in the number of ice-free days per year occurring over the last 100 years in Alaska. He suggests that it “is feasible that this increase in the number of ice-free days is enough to allow swans to breed in areas that were previously unavailable due to ice cover.”

A recent Blog, entitled World Climate Report  gleefully highlights this idea in their May 20th essay, and erroneously implies that the entire growth of the Alaskan Trumpeter population since 1968 is due to climate change. The Blog presents an idyllic photo of a Trumpeter with two cygnets, underscored with the caption “Trumpeter Swans Thriving in a World of Enriched CO2.” The authors appear to be unaware of the primary factors that fueled the increase of Alaskan Trumpeters, such as the cessation of the historic overharvest and the massive increase of agricultural food availability in their southerly wintering areas. It appears that the Blog is more focused on attempting to dismiss the serious problems caused by climate change than in increasing anyone’s understanding of the forces impacting Trumpeter Swan populations.

Authors of this Blog quote extensively from The Trumpeter Swan Society website  and chide TTSS for listing climate change as one of the problems facing Trumpeters. Unfortunately the World Climate Report made no effort to contact TTSS to understand why we include climate change as a problem facing Trumpeters.

Ruth Shea, TTSS Board Member and long-term advocate and biologist for the vulnerable Greater Yellowstone Trumpeter Swan population cautions us keep a 360° view. Commenting on the Blog, she replies:

“Since I wrote the information they quoted from our website- I thought I’d make a few comments. Basically, it is possible that Trumpeters in some areas may benefit from a warmer climate, since breeding range is often limited by the ice-free period and winter severity limits use of some potential wintering sites. However, in locations where the shallow wetlands essential for Trumpeter Swan nesting are drying up at an increasing rate, problems are developing. Here in the Intermountain West, warming climate is impacting the nesting habitat of an already fragile population and could prevent its recovery if this trend continues. We are seeing declining water levels in many historic nesting sites, and are losing crucial water supplies even on some key National Wildlife Refuges. Some important territories in Yellowstone National Park are now completely unusable due to declines in the water table. One of our greatest challenges will be to figure out how to maintain adequate breeding habitat for this population if this trend continues. If we fail, the future of this nesting population will be in jeopardy.”

If the hosts of the World Climate Report had come to us to inquire why we list climate change as one of the problems facing Trumpeter Swans, we would have explained our concerns. As we have for over 40 years, we’ll celebrate success in one area, while keeping a watch on all sides of the issue and presenting the most accurate information available. If the World Climate Report had not closed their comment period so quickly after posting their essay, we would have submitted our comments to them. As always, we welcome your comments here.

Find more John VanOrman photos at

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month – MAY 2010

May 2, 2010

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


Tammy’s wonderfully detailed photo of this Trumpeter Swan shows how well exposure can be controlled even on an all white subject!  Look at all the feathers on the underside of the wing and you will see they are crisply detailed.  This detail is in part the result of Tammy’s perfect focus on the subject, but her exposure just adds to the detail of the feathers.  The focus is also quite different in the foreground and background, with both being fuzzy.  This just accentuates the focus of the swan, and makes it stand out against the blue of the water.  If you have been around a while, you will recognize this bird’s pose as being reminiscent of the old Packard automobile hood ornament.  Tammy captured an outstanding pose that was apparently interpreted by early auto engineers to denote the artistic interpretation of their car.  Art mimics nature, and Tammy’s photo is an excellent representative of that theme!

Featured Photographer for May, 2010 – Tammy Wolfe of  Minnesota 

I grew up in Wisconsin but now call Lake Elmo, Minnesota home. My interest in photography began when I got my first camera at age ten, which developed, as I got older, into a serious passion. Most of my photographs are the result of patience – long hours spent in a blind or in the field, waiting for the right moment or the right light.  But as a friend of mine said, “Any day spent in a photographer’s blind is a good day.” Over the years I have been able to combine my love for photography with other interests in my life – travel, nature, animals and lighthouses. Though I enjoy photographing a variety of subjects, my specialties are birds (with an emphasis on Trumpeter Swans and Wood Ducks).

Tammy shares her work on her website, Tammy Wolfe Photography. Use this LINK to her Trumpeter Swan Gallery and take time to browse through her fine images!  She has an outstanding collection that represents countless hours of time spent with Trumpeters.