Archive for May, 2011

Saving Yellowstone’s Swans – A New Chapter Begins

May 26, 2011

Yellowstone Trumpeter Pair by Jess Lee

A Report from the Field, from Ruth Shea

Yellowstone National Parkplayed a crucial role in the 1930s in preventing the extinction of Trumpeter Swans in the lower 48 states.  At their peak in the 1970s, over 50 Trumpeters summered in the Park and there were about 20 nesting territories.  Now, after a decline spanning over 30 years, only a handful of swans still summer in the Park and only one nesting pair remains.  In an effort to examine all possible options for saving Yellowstone’s swans, the National Park Service (NPS) convened about 30 swan, waterfowl, and wetland experts for a 2-day workshop, April 26-27, 2011 in Bozeman, Montana.

Having studied Yellowstone’s swans for my Master’s thesis in the 1970s, and now coordinating TTSS’s Greater Yellowstone Initiative, this issue has great personal interest to me. I attended the workshop on behalf of TTSS and made the opening presentation summarizing the history of the Park’s swans.  The reasons for the decline are complex and it was wonderful that the NPS brought so many scientists to contemplate the problems and possible solutions.

While there may be other unknown factors involved in the decline, my research indicates that human disturbance, dating back to the 1930s, has played a major role in damaging nesting success and eliminating nesting swans from preferred habitats in the park.  Coupled with the disruption of the swan families’ traditional patterns of habitat use and possible genetic problems, maintaining nesting Trumpeters inYellowstoneis a very difficult challenge.

TTSS commends the NPS for its efforts to improve this very difficult situation and we look forward to providing all possible assistance to the NPS.  Please see our next issue of Trumpetings, the Society’s publication for members, for further detail.

The Trumpeter Swan Society May 2011 Photograph of the Month

May 12, 2011

Trumpeter Swan taking flight by Max Waugh/

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

So many photographers are discouraged when they find their day in the field is overcast and cloudy.  And in most respects, their subjects will look better on a bright, sun-filled day.  But a white bird against white snow can create a photograph with high levels of contrast between the water, the bird and the snow.  Max’s photo shows that an overcast day is actually an ideal situation for deadening the contrast that would have been readily evident on a sunny day.

The composition of the photograph, with a clear area in front of the bird to fly into, takes advantage of allowing the swan to lead us into the setting of the photograph.  With relatively close shots such as this, it seems to work better to have the subject mid-photograph on the vertical axis.  When the subject is further afield that center placement is not nearly as critical.

The drops of water in the air and the head and wings of the swan are all in focus, creating an action-filled photograph with great depth-of-field.  With the out-stretched wings and splashes both in the foreground and behind the bird (along with the taking flight run of the bird), Max has created an outstanding photograph of an adult Trumpeter Swan against the background of steel-gray water and snow!

Featured Photographer for May, 2011 – Max Waugh, Seattle, Washington

Max Waugh is a part time nature, travel and sports photographer.  He enjoys traveling around the world in search of wildlife, but always takes time to visit Yellowstone every year.  Max’s family recently built a cabin near the park, which will hopefully be an excuse to spend even more time there.  When he’s not on the road, Max lives in the Seattle area with his wife Jenn and their hedgehog Triscuit.

More of Max’s work can be seen at

About the Photo:

“We encountered the swans during a snow coach tour into the interior of Yellowstone National Park in February of 2011.  It was my first winter trip to the interior, and I knew that our destination of Old Faithful wouldn’t yield much in the way of wildlife.  I urged our guide to make a short detour along the Madison River on the way back, in hopes of finding some swans (which I had not photographed in a few years).  We lucked out, finding a family of four trumpeters, and a second pair floating further down the river.  The pair passed us as I photographed from the bank, and then decided to take off in an explosion of flapping and splashing.  The detour certainly paid off, and made the whole tour worthwhile.”

We are pleased that Max was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society.