Archive for July, 2011

Trumpeter Swans at Seney National Wildlife Refuge by Dave Olson*

July 30, 2011

Trumpeter Pair by Wayne Salmonshi, Michigan

“By the late 1800s, Trumpeter Swans were extirpated from….” is a common phrase regarding the history of swans in the eastern 2/3s of the lower 48 states.  The Upper Peninsula of Michigan was no exception.  Now, Trumpeter Swans are sharing the same nesting islands with Common Loons at Seney National Wildlife Refuge (Seney or Refuge) and the swans are expanding their range beyond refuge boundaries. 

Established in 1935, Seney is located in the east-central portion of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan between Lake Superior andLake Michigan. The Refuge encompasses 95,238 acres, of which three quarters are classified as wetland habitat.  Prior to the existence of the Refuge, there were no named bodies of water in the area that was known as the “Greater Manistique Swamp.”  The Refuge’s primary focus was waterfowl management, so open water bodies were needed.  Over the next 20 years, the Refuge staff, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and Works Progress Administration Crew (WPA) worked to convert the “Swamp” into a series of pools and dikes to provide habitat.  As a result of their efforts, the Refuge now has 27 man-made pools and potholes, beaver ponds, and ditches that account for 7,456 surface acres of impounded water, 7.8 percent of the total acreage.

The Refuge pool system provides critical habitat for the swans.  Due to the natural topography, pine islands were formed when the pools were flooded and make excellent nesting areas that provide protection from predators. The average depth in the pools is 4 – 6 feet, so the shallow open water makes submergent vegetation accessible for feeding.  Aquatic plant species such as naiad (Najas quadalupensis), wild celery (Vallisneria americana), waterweed (Elodea canadensis), Chara spp., and pondweed (Potamageton spp.) are abundant enough to support a growing swan population.  Other key attributes that make Seney ideal for swans is that the landscape is mostly ecologically intact and isolated.  In addition, the area is unaffected by urban influences (e.g. power lines) and there are no lead shot issues due to a lack of waterfowl hunting history.  Both of these have been cited as important causes of mortality for other Interior Population swans. 

 In 1991, History Program of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), started a program that planned to reintroduce Trumpeter Swans toMichigan.  Ten 2-year-old Trumpeters were placed on the pools to begin the program.  Over the next 3 years, a total of 44 birds was released.  The swans originated from eggs collected inAlaskaand subsequently hatched and hand-raised at the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary on the campus ofMichiganStateUniversitynearBattle Creek,Michigan.  The success of the program came fast when, in 1992, one of the pairs released in 1991 nested, hatched, and successfully fledged two cygnets.  Former refuge manager Mike Tansy (1989-2001), who recognized the potential of Seney in the reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans to the State ofMichigan, played a crucial role in getting the program started.

Success continues as the number of white birds and cygnets increases.  From 2005 to 2010, an average of 228 adults and subadults used the Refuge (Figure 1).  During that period, the Refuge has an average of 32 nesting pairs that hatched an average of 87 cygnets.  The swans continue to explore areas beyond the boundaries of the Refuge and establish new territories.  Although it took over 100 years, Trumpeter Swans are once again a part of theUpper Peninsulalandscape.

Peak Count Seney NWR - 3 Year Running Average

Figure 1. Peak counts of white birds at Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Seney, Michigan, 1991-2010.

 *Dave Olson has been working with Trumpeter Swans since 2000.  He was the biologist at Red Rock Lakes NWR, Montana, from 2000 to 2002 and at Seney NWR, Michigan, from 2005 to 2009.  He is currently the Assistant Migratory Game Bird Coordinator for the Mountain-Prairie Region of the FWS where one of his tasks is to coordinate Trumpeter Swan management for the region.

This article recently appeared in the Society’s publication, Trumpetings, available with membership. Join us today to receive your copy.

The Trumpeter Swan Society August 2011 Photograph of the Month

July 25, 2011

Kip Ladage's Trumpeter Swan close-up.

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

Kip’s image of the Trumpeter Swan photographed with his wife’s point and shoot Nikon just shows that knowledge of your subject, and enhanced photographic skills are so important when creating an outstanding photograph.  This is not to say that point and shoot cameras are less capable of creating excellent quality photographs.  On the contrary, the quality and capabilities of the latest models are getting so good that in my discussions with some photographers, there is a small movement migrating away from the DSLR’s and their large lenses to the point and shoot.  More on that in the future…

As in the past, I have talked about the challenge of lighting on a white subject that has black features.  Kip did an excellent job of capturing the finest of detail in the feathers, which the black background only enhanced.  And with a light-colored subject, that also allowed Kip to increase the depth of field.

Another very nice quality of the photograph is that it is not the entire bird.  The focal point of the bird is the head and the eye and with that being the case, just look at how the neck, wings and feathers pull the viewer’s perspective to that point.  If the photograph included the entire bird or had a cluttered background, there would be a less focused feeling towards the focal point.  All of this points to Kip’s capabilities to creat an outstanding photograph on the spur of the moment!

Featured Photographer for August, 2011 – Kip Ladage, Tripoli, Iowa

Kip Ladage is self-taught nature photographer and writer residing in Tripoli, Iowa.  His photos and writings have appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, posters, calendars, web sites, and television at the local, state, and national levels.  His images have also been used in books, magazines, and web sites in the United Kingdom and Canada.

Kip has presented numerous nature photography programs and workshops to people of all ages–from Kindergarten students to college classes, adult organizations, and residents of long-term care facilities.

When not pursuing wildlife images, Kip Ladage enjoys backpacking, hiking, paddling his kayak, and riding his motorcycle.

For more information, visit Ladage Photography on the web at:

Contact Kip Ladage via e-mail at:

About the Photo:

The fact that this trumpeter swan image even exists is based a bit on preplanning, good timing, ideal positioning, and much good luck.

My wife and I were visiting the Iowa DNR booth at the Iowa State Fair.  Outside of their booth is a small pond where injured and rehab waterfowl are on display for the public to enjoy.  Included in the display were two trumpeter swans.  I seldom travel anywhere without a camera of some sort.  On this day we were carrying my wife’s point and shoot camera.  I left my DSLR home since it is heavy and, after all, what is the likelihood of finding a nature photo subject in a sea of people at the state fair!

While Kristy and I were watching the ducks and swans, this particular swan floated near us.  I noticed it approaching and began tracking the beautiful bird with the camera as it approached.  Just as the bird moved directly in front of us, it turned its head back and for a split second adjusted its feathers.  During that brief moment in time I captured just this one image of the bird.  Under normal conditions I would have been very frustrated that my wife’s camera was so slow, allowing only one image file to be created.  However, in this case, the camera captured the special moment perfectly.  Who could ask for anything more?

Image details: Nikon P100, no cropping, image shown full frame.

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


July 15, 2011

TTSS Helps Washington Swans!


Since 2005, when we first began the Adopt A Swan program, donors have contributed $10,324 to benefit Trumpeter Swans in Washington State, where lead poisoning has sickened and killed over 2,500 swans.  A list of these generous people, including a several wonderful grade school classes, can be found on our website.

Every dollar raised through this program goes to benefit the swans through our Lead Poisoning Crisis Response Program.  Since 2005, $8,562 of the donations have been used for: hazing swans away from areas where there is high danger of lead poisoning ($3,000); supplies and mileage expenses for monitoring of swans and pick up of injured and dead swans ($2,943); trailer rental for hazing and monitoring crew ($1,004); satellite transmitter data from radio marked swans ($1,000); and swan rehabilitation and necropsies ($615).  We currently have $1,762 carry over in the fund to help us fund next winter’s work.  Lead poisoning has a terrible impact on many wildlife species —Trumpeter Swans are particularly vulnerable.  We thank all those who have supported this program.  By becoming a supporter and help us reduce these needless deaths and suffering.

If you live in one of twenty states you could be FIRST in your state to Adopt a Swan!  This exciting program funds TTSS’s fight against LEAD. Right now the program is focused in well-organized efforts in Washington State, but with your help we may be able to expand our efforts. The list of donors on our site, from 32 states and 1 province, is impressive.  You can be on that list.  If you live in AZ, AR, DE, HI, ID, IN, KY, LA, ME, NE, NV, NM, ND, OH, OK, SC, SD, UT, VT, or WY – why not add YOUR name as well as YOUR STATE!  There are donation levels for every budget.  Please see our website, or email  for details.

Gift of Art Print Benefits The Trumpeter Swan Society: Rob Dreyer & the Artists for Conservation Program

July 7, 2011
AHEAD of the STORM, by artist Rob Dreyer

We are thrilled that Ron Dreyer, of Dreyer Fine Arts, selected The Trumpeter Swan Society to receive a percentage of the sales of a fabulous Trumpeter art print as part of the Artists for Conservation (AFC) program.  The original artwork, and an offer for Limited Edition prints, is featured in his online gallery.

Intrigued by his evocative capture of the essence of three Trumpeters taking flight in AHEAD OF THE STORM, we asked him about his work. He shared this:

“I am a lifelong artist and conservationist with a focus on portraits in oil.  While I started with human portraits, it was only natural that I extend my abilities into what has always been my natural passion, the marvels of creation found in the animal kingdom.  You will notice in my wildlife portrait work, that rather than a landscape with wildlife, I tend to focus almost exclusively on the animal itself, often working life size or larger where possible. My intention is a stunning up-close portrait of the creature, with only a secondary interest in its surroundings. In this way, the viewer’s focus is forced toward the beautiful details both in their character and the patterns of their creation. This offers a perception of our natural world that may not be as noticeable in real life or in a more typical artistic interpretation.”

We learned more about Rob Dreyer through the Artists for Conservation website and we encourage you to visit to read more of his story.  A lifelong artist and conservationist, Rob grew up in Missouri. He credits his father, a physician and naturalist, for instilling in him at a deep reverence for beauty and the miracle shown in detail of every living thing.  For over 10 years, Rob Dreyer worked as a muralist, painting over 100 works on private residences, government buildings, and churches.  Today, he focuses on portraits of wildlife and humans, striving to bring sweeping scope and luminosity to canvas in the studio.  Rob has generously donated one of this series of fine-art prints to the upcoming SILENT AUCTION at TTSS’s 22nd Conference coming up this year Oct. 10-14 in Polson, Montana.  

Ron Dreyer is a member of the Artists for Conservation foundation (AFC) is a nonprofit international organization dedicated to the celebration and preservation of the natural world. Based in Vancouver, British Columbia, the foundation represents the world’s leading collective of artists focused on nature and wildlife, with a membership spanning five continents and 27 countries.  The organization’s mission is to support wildlife and habitat conservation, biodiversity, sustainability, and environmental education through art that celebrates our natural heritage.  Members donate 5 percent or more of wildlife originals or limited edition prints in support of conservation organizations that they select.  This year, November 4-13, 2011, AFC will host the First Annual Artists for Conservation Festival at Grouse Mountain Resort, site of the recent Winter Olympics. Sounds like a grand event that you may want to attend, featuring exhibits, film premieres, demonstrations, and workshops. 

Visit their website,, to learn more.