Archive for November, 2011

Citizen Science: The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS) Joins with Partners to Launch the Great Rivers Trumpeter Watch

November 30, 2011

Lone Trumpeter Swan Landing, by Gail Miller, Arkansas

Trumpeter Watch is a Citizen Science program of The Trumpeter Swan Society (TTSS), currently embarking on its third winter season. The goal of this program is to involve members of TTSS, birders, and wildlife enthusiasts in accurately describing the winter distribution of Trumpeter Swans. One focus of Trumpeter Watch is the expanding Interior Population, where – after the success of restoration programs in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario and other northern states and provinces – swans are pioneering into new areas south of the 40th parallel.

To better understand the wintering needs of Trumpeters, TTSS requested the help of The Audubon Center at Riverlands, the St. Louis Audubon Society, and the Audubon Society of Missouri to partner this year in an effort to monitor the Great Rivers area.  If successful, the program will be the first of several regional efforts; each with its own geographic focus.  These partners bring local expertise and access to an extensive network of observers.  The Audubon Center at Riverlands, newly opened this October at the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, is the perfect place for Outreach and Education. 

From 1990-2010, Missouri observers have recorded the highest number of Trumpeter Swans wintering in states south of the 40th parallel with sightings in 41 of 114 counties. Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (RMBS) is the single most important wintering site of the southern states with counts of 500+individuals in the past few years. Other public and private land areas of this confluence area of the Mississippiand Missouri Rivers are seeing increasing numbers of swans as well.

The goal of the Great Rivers Trumpeter Watch is to coordinate a Citizen Science effort to accurately count the number of swans using a variety of habitats, wild and cultivated, in the Great Rivers area. There will be bi-monthly counts at various locations where volunteers will report the number of swans and their activities. Counts will be conducted at the same time to achieve a more accurate total count.  Trained volunteers will be assigned to these areas and will complete a simple reporting form on-line after their observation period.  Seven proposed areas to be covered in this pilot project are: RMBS, Two Rivers National Wildlife Refuge (Swan & Gilbert Lake), Confluence State Park, Portage Des Sioux, Cora Island (Big Muddy), Fields around RMBS & Cora Island, and the Columbia Bottoms State Conservation Area.

Local project coordinators will host an orientation and training session for volunteer observers on Tuesday, December 6 at 9:00 am at theAudubonCenterat Riverlands. The first monitoring date will be Tuesday, December 13th at 8:00 am.  Additional dates will be chosen in the near future and January dates will coincide with a national count conducted for the Interior Trumpeter Swan Population by the Mississippi Flyway Swan Committee chaired by Joe Johnson of The Trumpeter Swan Society. 

 For additional information, please visit the web sites for The Trumpeter Swan Society and the Audubon Center at Riverlands.

The Trumpeter Swan Society November 2011 Photograph of the Month

November 12, 2011

Trumpeter Swan 7H2 Family by David Hoffman

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

David’s image of this Trumpeter Swan family (and the cob with an easily identifiable neck collar band) brings up a challenge all photographers face, do you do post-processing and if so, how much?

This is a wonderful shot!   The pool of water holds the family together, as the pen and cob create “bookends” of protection for the cygnets.  The consistency of the green vegetated background just adds to the formation of the “family” setting.  It appears it was an overcast day as there are no hard shadows and that adds to the fine detail in bird’s feathers.

Given the shape and size of pixels (as opposed to film grain), there is one step in post processing that should be considered, and that is a slight sharpening of the focus of the photo.  It is just an intrinsic part of digital photography.  Beyond that, altering the photograph with additional processing is up to the photographer.

One individual might want to remove the grass seed stalk in front of the cygnets so there is no distraction, while another views the stalk with no inherent thought of distraction.  Still another photographer might want to remove the neck collar band to lend a more natural setting to the cob.  All of these can be achieved by using post-processing software (Adobe Photoshop or Elements, ArcSoft Photo Studio, Apple iLife etc.)

But in the end it is the photographer’s decision and for this photograph David said: “I would kind of prefer to have swan 7H2 with collar showing, mainly to encourage people to report marked swans and promote TTSS Trumpeter watch.”

And with every photo there is always the story of the photographer, and as David explains below, he had a very personal involvement with one of the adult birds.  And it is that involvement that gives it a personal touch and a story to share beyond the photograph.

Featured Photographer for October, 2011 – David Hoffman, State of Iowa

David Hoffman is a wildlife research technician with the Iowa DNR.  He has been involved with the Iowa DNR’s Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program since 1995.

David had provided this link to report any Trumpeter Swan sightings in the State of Iowa.

About the Photo:

From David: “Trumpeter 7H2 is male hatched at Steve Nelson’s farm pond near Cherokee, IA in June 2004.  His mother died shortly after his hatch.  I cared for 7H2 and his siblings at my house for ~a week in 2004.  Del Huebner of Clinton, IA cared for him till Sept. 2004.  He spent the winter of 2004 at Laurie & Tony Severe’s Pond near Nora Springs, IA. and flew from their pond the following summer.

The female is originally out of THE LIVINGSTON RIPLEY 
WATERFOWL SANCTUARY (Litchfield CT) and she was hatched in ~1984.  She nested from 1994-2003 at Von Maur Clothing Corp. office in Davenport.  She also nested at the Lemke Funeral Home pond at Clinton, IA.  She has only hatched successfully ~3 times since 1994, no more than 2-3 cygnets at one time.

This pair is the first wild nesting pair in Winneshiek County Iowa since the late 1880’s!!!  I heard the news that this pair had hatched cygnets. I stopped by to visit with the landowner (Langreck) and answer any questions about the Trumpeters and their care.  I had my camera with, and was able to snap a few quick shots.

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

Trumpeter Watch, a Citizen Science Project of The Trumpeter Swan Society kicks off Third Winter Season

November 2, 2011

See Our Preliminary Results Online Photo: Peg Abbott

Trumpeter Watch, a Citizen Science program of The Trumpeter Swan Society, encourages observers to help the Society document the changing distribution of wintering Trumpeter Swans in states south of the 40th parallel.

In recent decades wild nesting populations of Trumpeter Swans have been successfully restored across the Interior northern states and Ontario. As populations grow, we see evidence that more and more swans are pioneering southward to areas where they may establish more southerly wintering sites.  Little is known about these southward moving swans; the duration that they use various sites, the location and characteristic of prime feeding and resting areas, or what problems they may be encountering.  Observers are needed primarily in states south of the 40th parallel, during the winter season, to help chart trends in this new winter distribution.  You can help!

The largest wintering concentrations south of the 40th parallel to date occur in and around Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary in the state of Missouri (along with adjacent southern Illinois) close to the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  At the peak of winter, over 500 Trumpeters may be present.  Of note is that marked and collared Trumpeters from all the northern states have been sighted here, indicating a certain, but unknown degree of mixing.  

Observers have tallied Trumpeters in 41 of 114 counties in Missouri, two of which have recorded winter counts of swans over 100 in number.  A dozen additional sites note groups of 10 or more.  The Heber Springs area of Arkansas is an important wintering site, and observers throughout the southern states are asked to be especially vigilant looking for collared birds marked during an experimental winter release program conducted in cooperation between the Arkansas Game and Fish Department and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Kansas birders have recorded Trumpeters in 57 of 105 counties, and Oklahoma observers note them in 17 of 77 counties. We expect the lists to grow.  Be the first to add your county!

We are compiling records throughout the southern states, and with increased participation, we are starting to look at winter distribution in the western states as well. You’ll find preliminary results of Trumpeter Watch, learn about tools of the trade, and find a chart you can download to help you find the origins of marked, collared, wing-tagged and banded Trumpeter Swans on our website. This is an exciting program that needs YOUR support!  We ask that you get involved with sightings, and that you make a donation – however large or small – to support our efforts, through membership or a direct project donation. All of our work is aimed at fulfilling our mission, to assure the security and vitality of wild Trumpeter Swans.