Archive for October, 2010


October 25, 2010
Trumpeter Pair by Jess Lee

Trumpeter Pair by Jess Lee

Trumpeter Watch is starting its second winter season and we ask observers to report Trumpeter Swan sightings, particularly in states south of the 40th parallel. Based on last year’s numbers in southern states, the winter 2010/2011 should be an exciting one – particularly if we can expand participation in sightings. We urge you to check your lake, wetland and grain field areas soon! For instance, both Kansas and Missouri have had a few October records along with a number of November sightings, and we’ve seen birds moving into Oklahoma mid-November, coming in good number by late December. We are interested in these arrival dates and in the pattern of use throughout the winter.

This year, we hope to make reporting easier for observers by partnering with “eBird,” the popular data reporting program of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, in conjunction with the Avian Knowledge Network. Their system is easy to learn, and once you’ve set up a free account with password, you can report sightings, browse through data, and take a look at your state or province for current and historical data. Your sightings will be part of a global database available to biologists, wildlife managers, teachers, and birders.

The “eBird” program has revolutionized the way that the birding community accesses and reports information since its start-up in 2002. It is designed to record basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales – just the type of information we are looking for as we monitor Trumpeter Swan populations over a large geographic area.

One of the best things about “eBird” is the immediate ability of the program to show data with dynamic maps and bar charts that detail relative abundance over time. Last winter, we kept in-house maps to chart the bird’s activities, but had no way to share them efficiently with you. In partnering with “eBird,” your sighting will appear as a dot on a Google Map, one that you can zoom in or out to look at an individual county, a state, or up to a five-state area.

Both recreational and professional observers contribute sightings to “eBird.” Each state has knowledgeable coordinators that review sightings, using a set of filters to check for data accuracy if a species is rare or of particular interest. TTSS will be able to work with these coordinators and to access comments included with the observation as to age, flock size, and other statistics.

Trumpeter Watch observers are welcome to continue to send in sightings by mail or by email as per our instructions on the website, attn. Peg Abbott, Outreach Coordinator, if you prefer. Peg will forward these records on to eBird as we complete data analysis.

We report Trumpeter Watch progress in our ENEWS and on Facebook, so if you have not yet signed up for these, log on to website and request the free ENEWS, and choose to be a FAN of TTSS on Facebook. If you do not have a computer and wish us to send copy by mail, please request that we do so.

Federal Agencies Partner with Industry to Protect Trumpeter Swans-

October 19, 2010

John Cornely, Executive Director of The Trumpeter Swan Society, shares this recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) press release, reminding us that “Powerline collisions are one of the leading causes of Trumpeter Swan Mortality throughout there range in North America. The Trumpeter Swan Society strongly encourages power companies, resource agencies, and conservation groups to work together to mitigate this hazard.” Here is the press release:

Ameren Missouri, with oversight from the (USFWS) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), have begun installing 1,000 “swan diverters” on several miles of high-voltage “transmission” power lines that cross the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary on the Mississippi River, near West Alton, Mo. in an effort to protect Trumpeter Swans.

The devices—each about 12 inches long and resembling a giant yellow corkscrew—will be installed by workers from helicopters hovering above the USACE sanctuary. They will be placed on the highest static wires of non-electric transmission towers—towers that are designed to absorb lightning strikes—as a means of alerting swans.

Each winter, about 500 swans from Upper Midwest breeding grounds winter at the sanctuary. Agents from the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement, USACE and officials from Ameren Missouri became concerned about evidence of swans being injured or killed by flying into the transmission wires. With the diverters in place, the birds should be better able to see the structures and fly over or under them.

Nearly extinct at the turn of the twentieth century, over the past 30 years, Trumpeter Swan populations have risen by about 400 percent, due to the conservation efforts of USFWS, the Trumpeter Swan Society, various state department of natural resources, conservation areas like the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary and concerned citizens.

John Christian, Assistant Director for Migratory Birds and State Programs, USFWS noted that this growing winter population supports the Mississippi Flyway Council’s efforts to disperse the wintering population of this Upper Midwest nester to suitable sites well south of the breeding range where they find both abundant forage and a more hospitable climate.” Christian added that “we are most pleased to see industry partnering on protecting these majestic birds.”

Charlie Duetsch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adds that helping the wintering swans is in line with the sanctuary’s and the Corps’ commitment to stewardship, environmental education and expanded outdoor recreation opportunities. “The swan project allows us to balance the role of the rivers in a national transportation corridor, the environmental attributes of the area and the modern-day need for power,” he says. “It’s a very unique and creative project.”

Ameren Missouri, founded in 1902, provides electric and gas service to approximately 1.2 million customers across central and eastern Missouri, including the greater St. Louis area.

Andy Buhl, Assistant Special Agent in Charge for the Midwest Region of USFWS praised Ameren Missouri’s efforts saying “We encourage industrial companies to coordinate with the Fish and Wildlife Service to develop best practices to avoid the take of migratory birds and other protected wildlife.”


October 16, 2010

The Johnson/DeBay Swan Reserve (JDSR), near Mt. Vernon, Washington, is America’s only swan reserve. Owned by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the Reserve was dedicated in 2001 for the public to view wintering Trumpeter and Tundra Swans. Since its creation, TTSS has served on the Reserve’s stewardship group and been a leading advocate for its protection and improvement.

WDFW’s management of the Reserve’s agricultural fields adjacent to a wetland night roost, and closure to hunting, provide excellent conditions for wintering swans. The Reserve is wheelchair accessible and has become a wonderful place to view many other birds, including ducks, raptors, and song birds.

Over the past 18 months, a boundary dispute threatened the Reserve. TTSS helped focus public attention on the threat and worked hard for the Reserve’s protection. To our great satisfaction, the threat was resolved at the WDFW Commission meeting in December 2009, when the Commission ruled to preserve the original intended boundary. This ruling will keep key swan flight corridors to the nearby Skagit River free from hunting.

TTSS has also led efforts to improve the Reserve’s interpretive facilities, with funding given in memory of John Glynn, an avid birder who cared deeply for this special place. We recently installed an interpretive kiosk and two benches and are currently planning a spring/summer nature trail and viewing platform.

A field trip for legislators and policy makers was held at the Reserve on December 16, 2009. In preparation for this event, TTSS, in cooperation with WDFW, developed informational signs and handouts for the event. The swans provided background music and graced the visitors with flights directly over the group, confirming to all the important value of the Reserve.

Thanks to all who helped keep this place safe, particularly Skagit Audubon Society, Washington Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, and the WDFW Commission and dedicated staff.


Kiosk at Johnson/DeBay Swan Reserve, Washington

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month October 2010

October 11, 2010

Trumpeter Swan in Flight, by Tracy Knighton

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

Tracy’s challenge of capturing the swan in flight while creating a photograph with artistic merit provides us with a photo depicting a mastery of lighting and depth-of-field.

Given the deep blue sky and the side-lighted swan, the challenge would be to find detail in the primaries and secondaries that are shadowed. And there is detail in those shadows as well as in the sun lighted head, neck and upper breast. Histograms are a great source of information and can let you know whether there will be highlights in the lightest and darkest areas of the photograph. Most newer digital SLR’s have a viewable histogram that can tell you almost immediately whether your photograph will show details in those areas.

Depth of field is another challenge faced with a head-on photograph. Tracy was able to get the bill and face of the swan in focus as well as the back end of the bird. You can make this happen in at least three different ways: utilize a very high f-stop on a bright day (f16 or f22); utilize a flash in conjunction with the high f-stop; or bump your ISO up to a higher speed to give you the light and then use the higher f-stop.

Tracy was in the right position relative to the bird and the lighting and utilized a very broad depth of field to create this exceptional photo of a Trumpeter Swan as it winged toward her.

Featured Photographer for October, 2010 – Tracy Knighton, Coon Rapids Minnesota

I am Tracy Knighton from Minnesota and I have been interested in photography for about a year and a half now. Although I have lived in MN all my life, I am discovering new things as I look at the world through a lens. I am always looking for new places, events and challenges to use my camera. I have taken a couple of classes with community education, but most of my learning has taken place through hands on experience. I manipulate the camera settings to see what I like.

This photo was taken at Swan Park in Monticello MN. It was a chilly winter day, with some early morning fog along the Mississippi River. I got caught up in taking pictures and ended up being there for about two hours. The swans winter there from November to February each year. It is an amazing sight to see, and hear! I am currently working on a website/photography blog but it is in the developmental stages.

We are pleased that Tracy was willing to share this outstanding shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. To see more of her photos, please visit her flickr site at


October 11, 2010

Trumpeter Swans by Jess Lee

Four juvenile Trumpeters were shot and their bodies were left on the shore of Brown’s Lake in Beltrami County, northern Minnesota. The shootings are under investigation. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sent out a press release September 27, offering a reward for information on the shooting, which occurred during the Youth Waterfowl Weekend, September 18-19. The lake is 4 miles southeast of Norris Camp, an historic CCC building and headquarters for Red Lake Wildlife Management Area.

From the press release: “The Trumpeter Swan is a threatened species and shooting one is considered a gross misdemeanor. People who shoot them face fines up to $3,000, possible loss of their shotguns, and loss of their hunting license. Minnesota has a gross overlimit penalty law now in place, and if this penalty applies Conservation Officer Jeff Birchem says that ‘the shooter could lose their waterfowl hunting privileges for three years.’”
Anyone with information about the swan shooting should call the Turn in Poachers (TIP) Hotline at 800-652-9093 or Officer Birchem at 218-783-2521. The person reporting the information may remain anonymous.

Minnesota DNR has an excellent identification section for Trumpeters on its website and with this press release urges hunters to use caution.