Archive for the ‘Citizen Science’ Category

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.

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.

Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Looking for Reports of Trumpeter Swans

August 23, 2011
Trumpeter Swans by Jess Lee

(Text as published in the Arkansas Outdoors Weekly Newsletter, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission)

LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission is asking the public to help with a project by reporting trumpeter swans “summering” in Arkansas.

As part of the Mississippi Flyway Council’s Trumpeter Swan Migration Experiment, 49 trumpeter swans were released in Arkansas during the winters of 2008, 2009 and 2010. This experiment attempts to re-establish historic swan winter migrations south into Arkansas and other southern states from the swans breeding areas in northern states.

Karen Rowe, the AGFC’s Bird Conservation Coordinator, said she is pleased that the majority of the released swans have returned north during the breeding season and many of them have returned to winter in Arkansas. “We have found that a number of our released swans have stayed in Arkansas during the summer and we want to identify and track these birds. We are interested in gathering information on these “summering” swans in order to evaluate the progress of this experiment and track the habitat preferences of these birds,” she explained.

AGFC is asking the public to report sightings of summer swans and when possible, include the collar color and alpha-numeric code on the swan collars. Each of the translocated swans is fitted with a neck collar that bears a unique letter-number code. Rowe says binoculars or a spotting scope are often needed to read the neck collar identification code. “Reports that contain the collar letter and number are extremely valuable because they enable us to track a particular swan, not just across Arkansas, but throughout its journey up and down the Mississippi Flyway. We really appreciate the observers’ efforts to obtain these important but difficult to read neck collar I.Ds.”

Observers should note the exact location of the swan, using a GPS when possible, and report the location, the collar color and alpha numeric code to Rowe at or by using the link to the AGFC survey form at Observers without internet access can report their sightings by calling toll free 877-873-4651.

Before European settlement, the breeding range for trumpeter swans encompassed over half of North America, including the northern portion of Arkansas. Commercial harvest of the birds for feathers, skins and meat extirpated trumpeter swans from almost all of North America by the late 1800s.

Reintroduction efforts have restored trumpeter swans to portions of their former breeding range. Today, approximately 5,000 trumpeter swans live in the Midwest area of the United States. Trumpeter swans may form pair bonds as early as their second summer, but typically do not breed until they are 4-7 years old. Trumpeters migrate in family groups and prefer to feed on aquatic vegetation.

Trumpeter swans are the largest birds native to North America. Adult males measure 57 to 64 inches long and weigh around 25 pounds. Adult females range from 55 to 60 inches and weigh approximately 20 pounds. Their wingspans can approach 8 feet, and they fly with their extremely long necks outstretched.

FIRST CYGNETS for the BLACKFOOT SWAN PROGRAM arrive in year of Montana’s Epic Floods!

June 29, 2011

Blackfoot Swan Program, First Cygnets Hatch - Helmville, Montana

The Trumpeter Swan Society: Reports from the Field:

Greg Neudecker
Montana Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program

When it rains it pours and this year’s weather has certainly proved that in Montana, where flood levels have reached epic proportion.  What’s amazing is that Trumpeter Swans could sit on a nest for 33 days of rain and cold weather and produce young.  Not only did one pen (female) do that this spring, we confirmed a second clutch hatched on the first day of Summer.

Thanks to the many supporters of the Blackfoot Swan Program, we have turned the clock back in time to the good old days.  Trumpeter Swans are once again scattered across the Blackfoot Valley and for the first time in over a 100 years, are producing cygnets (young) in this amazing valley.  

Over the last week we have added 7 white downy puff balls to our landscape.  The first nest located north of Helmville hatched out late last week adding 4 beautiful cygnets (attached photo) to the valley.  On the first day of summer, three cygnets came off a nest northwest of Ovando while we were lucky enough to be on a hillside watching them.  To see a little white head pop out of the pen’s wing while still on the nest is a once in a life time experience.  

While we still have a ways to go to get to 7 nesting pairs, we certainly turned the corner in a big way in 2011.  We could not have gotten to this point without the support of the many amazing people, conservation groups and agencies participating in the Blackfoot Swan Program.  From the landowners who own and manage the wetlands in the Blackfoot Valley, to the many folks who have financially supported the program, to all the bird releasers, students, teachers and bird lovers who have reported over 800 observations over the years, and to the all swan helpers that have logged hundreds of miles going to Canada to Jackson Wyoming and up the Blackfoot, we couldn’t have done it without each and everyone of you.

So thanks to all of you from the Swans of the BlackfootValley.  

Photo: Greg Neudecker
Montana Partners for Fish & Wildlife Program 

Come join TTSS at the 22nd Annual Conference this year in Montana and learn more about this and other exciting restoration effort and TTSS’s other programs.  October 11-14, 2011.  

The Trumpeter Swan Society: Michigan’s AuSable River Trumpeter Swans

February 20, 2011

AuSable River Trumpeter Swans by Wayne Salmoshi

Despite blizzards, deep snow and freezing temperatures that reduce the availability of open water, Trumpeter Swans remain in northeast Michigan where warm water outflow from hydro dams help create functioning winter habitat where they can survive on natural food.

TTSS member Peggy Ridgway reports to us on a February day as blizzard conditions keep her in by her computer. On a normal day, she is often out with the Trumpeters. She shares this great photo, taken by Wayne Shawl – an avid Trumpeter Swan watcher – near Cooke Dam on the AuSable River. He captures two Trumpeters swimming next to a merganser – quite a comparison in size!

Peggy was one of a number of observers that helped with the 2010 North American Trumpeter Swan Survey. Her area of interest covers four counties of northeastern Michigan, including all or portions of Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, and Ogemaw counties. The survey was conducted by the Forest Service and the AuSable Valley Audubon Society. Together, they attempted to cover all suitable habitats within the proclamation boundary of the Huron National Forest. Paul Thompson, Wildlife Biologist – Huron – Manistee National Forest, sends these summary numbers.

2010 Trumpeter Swan Survey Alcona, Iosco, Oscoda, Ogemaw
August/September 2010
US Forest Service and AuSable Valley AudubonAlcona County:   21 Adult Trumpeters, 12 cygnets   at 7 locations. Iosco County:     19  Adult Trumpeters, 1 cygnet     at 6 locations
Oscoda County:    1  Adult Trumpeter,  0 cygnets    at 1 location
Ogemaw County: 13  Adult Trumpeters, 0 cygnets   at 3 locations

Here are some of her more recent counts and locations for the winter of 2010/2011:

Dec. 7- 75 at Westgate (just up river from 5- Channels Dam 

Dec. 7- 50+ at Pine Acres ( just below 5- Channels Dam)  

Dec. 8- 134  28 were cygnets in this total group

Dec. 9-150+ below Cooke, 110 at Pine Acres, 10 Westgate This was a banner day!  Perhaps we caught part of a migration??

Dec. 12- 62 below Cooke

Dec. 31- 67 below Cooke

Dec. 22-21 at Alcona Pond ( another Dam on the AuSable)  However, the pond was frozen over and these birds were on the ic

2011: Jan. 12- 62 below Cooke


Wintering Swans of the Au Sable River Area by Ed Cole

Jan. 17- 44 below Cooke

* Further background on AuSable River swans (from our TTSS ENEWS of September, 2009):

Trumpeter Swans are thriving on Michigan’s scenic Au Sable River, thanks to the shared efforts of Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources, Consumers Energy, Huron-Manistee National Forest and members of the AuSable Valley Audubon Society. Birdwatchers know the area and the town of Mio for a much smaller signature species – the Kirtland’s Warbler, an extremely rare , endangered songbird which winters in the Bahamas. The river is locally prized for recreation: canoeing, rafting, tubing and world-class fly-fishing. Known as one of the finest trout fisheries in the world, fall brings legendary Steelhead runs to a section of the river near Foote Dam. Consumer’s Energy owns and operates six hydroelectric dams along the Au Sable and the neighboring Manistee and Muskegon rivers and a good deal of property, along with U.S. National Forest Service, along the shorelines. The area is rich in wetlands – reservoirs, lakes and ponds, and overflow areas associated with beavers. In 1997 and 1998 14 Trumpeter Swans, raised by Michigan State University’s Kellogg Sanctuary were released as part of Michigan’s restoration efforts.

The nesting flock is now self-sustaining and find year-round needs met nearby. Several sections of the river stay open due to outflow from hydroelectric power plants. Members of the AuSable Valley Audubon chapter recorded 138 Trumpeters wintering in the area in a recent winter. The cooperative partners teamed up to produce a striking, colorful brochure to educate the public on Trumpeters’ needs. The area is rich in food so managers ask the public not to feed the swans.  They ask fisherman to remove all used fishing gear. Protective adult birds can protect some of their young from predators such as northern pike, snapping turtles and Bald Eagles, but can do little against hidden threats caused by lead sinkers (mistaken for food) and pre-regulation lead shot, still in our wetland systems.

Trumpeter Watch: 2010 Iowa Update – by Dave Hoffman

February 8, 2011

Banded Swan at Beemer's Pond, Iowa by Bill Schuerman

The Iowa midwinter survey tallied 289 Trumpeter swans in Iowa during the first week of January 2011. Beemer’s pond near Webster City, IA had the highest count in late November with 162 swans reported.  Other winter reports included:  46 at Atlantic Quarry, 36 at Nora Springs and 25 on a private pond at Bob and Mary Boock’s.  Nearby out of state numbers included 101 at Squaw Creek NWR in NE Missouri, ~ 5,500 swans in Minnesota and 274 swans counted at Magness Lake near Heber Springs, Arkansas.

Update on the Arkansas-Iowa swan migration experiment  

 Green collar 1P1 and mate were observed at Beemer’s Pond near Webster City, IA on Nov 27th 2010, then at Magness Lake, AR on Jan 14, 2011. 1P1 is a 2007 hatch year female from Lake Wapello State Park released at Holla Bend NWR (6 S Dardanelle, Arkansas) on 1/24/2008.

Additional swans left Beemer’s pond during the same time period when the winter snow and cold set it.  It is hoped that the departing swans were led south to Arkansas by an experienced traveler, 1P1, and were able to learn new migratory routes. 

Iowa collared swans reported out of state continue to trickle in from Missouri, Kansas, Illinois, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

Experimental fall release at the Boock’s Pond

The experimental fall release of three cygnets at Bob Boock’s pond looks to be very promising.  Bob Boock’s pond has developed into a “staging area” for swans to gather in the early fall.  Three cygnets from the Chicago Botanical Center were released in early October and were “adopted” by a lone free flying Trumpeter.  We would assume, under the guidance of an older experienced adult, that the newly released cygnets would have a much greater survival rate.

In 2010, 42 wild nesting pairs were reported in Iowa.  An estimated 120 cygnets were hatched with ~84 surviving till flight stage

A big thanks, to everyone helping out with the Trumpeter Swan Program. I am making an attempt to do my best to fill in for Ron Andrews, which are some mighty big shoes to fill!,    Ron is doing great in retirement and continues to volunteer and assist with the Trumpeter Swan program and many other DNR related duties.  I am really fortunate to have his help and guidance. He sends his best.  Dave

TTSS Note: Dave Hoffman is a biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.  Find out more about their Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program HERE. 


January 5, 2011
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

Inland Lakes of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore by Jayne Schafer

Background: Historically, Trumpeter Swans were abundant throughout the Great Lakes region, even in the southern Michigan marshlands. However, following settlement, populations plummeted. Beginning in the 1800s, European settlers cleared the land, draining and filling important marsh habitat, killed swans for food, and market hunters took swans for their fine down and quills. Mute Swans, which are native to Europe and Asia, were brought to the United States from the mid-1800s through the early 1900s and competed with Trumpeters for dwindling aquatic habitats.  By 1933, only 66 Trumpeter Swans remained in the continental United States, in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains. Nearly 100 years passed before Trumpeter Swans were seen again in the Michigan wilds.

During the 1980s, Michigan began a swan reintroduction program. The Michigan commitment was the establishment of three self-sustaining populations of at least 200 swans by the year 2000. Early attempts at cross-fostering Trumpeter eggs with Mute Swans yielded low success rates and were abandoned. Rearing of cygnets for two years prior to releasing them into prime wetland habitat was then implemented. Eggs were collected from zoos and incubated to hatching. The Michigan restoration program has been successful: the 2000 count of Trumpeter Swans in Michigan exceeded 400 individuals. In late summer, 2010, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment participated in a continent-wide census to determine the population size and distribution of Trumpeter swans.  Results are pending.

Sleeping Bear Dunes (SLBE) Project:   Between 2006 and 2007, the park, in association with the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, released 14 Trumpeter Swan cygnets as part of a reintroduction program.   Eight cygnets were banded and released in July of 2006. An additional 6 cygnets were banded and released the following summer.

  • Source cygnets came from the W. K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary located between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek and were supplied to the park by the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians.
  • Cygnets were within 3 or 4 weeks of flight and were released within six hours of capture.
  • The SLBE release site was selected based upon habitat quality and the low visitation to this area.  Ample food for growth and building reserves for fall flight was noted in the area. Other considerations included risk to illegal hunting/shooting, lead shot, and predation.


  • Following the release, a habitat survey was completed for all of the lakes within SLBE to evaluate the quality of Trumpeter Swan habitat.  The survey will be used to prioritize locations for future swan releases.
  • To date, follow-up monitoring has not been completed due to staffing constraints.  VOLUNTEERS ARE NEEDED for the spring of 2011.

Sleeping Bear Dunes biologist Sue Jennings reports that she observed a group of 7 adults swimming close to shore on Lake Michigan (near Esch Beach) in May, 2010, and other sightings during the summer were received. However, it has been a few years since park staff members have been able to actively monitor Trumpeter Swan nesting activities. Piping Plover work has been the top priority due to their endangered status, but Sue is hoping the park will be able to conduct nesting surveys for Trumpeter Swans as well as Common Loons next spring.

She is seeking VOLUNTEERS for the spring of 2011; and we hope to help her find people interested in assisting with a Trumpeter Swan nesting survey. She needs 1-2 individuals who would be available at least 1-2 days/week in early April through Mid-May. Proficiency with a canoe or kayak (intermediate level) is a requirement. Individuals familiar with the species (identification, nesting behavior) would be ideal, however, Sue would provide the necessary training (field identification and monitoring protocols) and field equipment (kayak/canoe, binoculars, etc.) to competent individuals.  

If you are interested, please contact:

Sue Jennings


Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

9922 Front Street

Empire, MI 49630

231-326-5134 ext. 422

TTSS thanks Sue Jennings for her work with Trumpeters and for the background data for this Blog feature.

Students for Swans: The Iowa State Trumpeter Swan Restoration Committee

December 28, 2010

Trumpeter Swans ... Beamers Pond Poster by Gary D. Tonhouse

The Iowa State University Trumpeter Swan Restoration Committee (TSRC) was started in 1994 by students from different disciplines with the same interest: to assist in restoring one of Iowa’s most beautiful and charismatic birds. Interest in the club not only grew in the number of students, but also expanded to include professionals and local citizens. In 1997, the Trumpeter Swan Restoration Committee was designated a recognized student organization at Iowa State University. Currently, the TSRC is a small group consisting of eight students and our faculty advisor, Dr. Stephen J. Dinsmore. Our passion for swans, however, is not small.
In cooperation with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the initial goal of the TSRC was to establish 40 nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans in Iowa by 2007. In support of this goal and the project, the TSRC held annual spring banquets to raise money that is provided to the Iowa DNR and their cooperators to help purchase food for captive swan populations, fund habitat restoration efforts, and to assist with other project costs. We continue to support Trumpeter Swan Restoration and continue to raise funds through the annual banquet. The April of 2010 banquet was the most successful ever, raising more than $2,000 for the swans. This fall one our students, Mica Rumbach, volunteered time and mapping expertise to Trumpeter Watch, an extensive Citizen Science project of The Trumpeter Swan Society.
The TSRC also publishes an annual newsletter, Trumpeting the Cause, about Iowa’s swans. This newsletter provides updates about the restoration of Trumpeter Swans in Iowa, includes articles about how to properly identify Trumpeter Swans and Tundra Swans, information about the life history characteristics of Trumpeter Swans, and tips for wildlife watching in Iowa. The newsletter reaches several hundred people including natural resource professionals, Trumpeter Swan project cooperators, and citizens interested in restoring this beautiful bird in Iowa.
The TSRC has also assisted the Iowa DNR with various projects including winter feeding of captive swans, swan “round-ups” (when captive swans are caught and relocated to different areas of the state), and plans this winter to assist with the construction and repair of swan nesting sites at known nesting locations.
Thanks to the cooperation and hard work of many, the restoration of Trumpeter Swans in Iowa has been a huge success. The project has exceeded the goal of restoring 40 nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans to Iowa, but we are continuing with our restoration efforts. Although we may be a small group, we work hard to make certain that this gorgeous bird remains in Iowa for future generations.

TTSS applauds the work of these dedicated and outstanding students. For additional information contact:
Tyler M. Harms
President, Iowa State Trumpeter Swan Restoration Committee

WANTED! Marked Tundra Swan Reports – Wintering Birds from Alaska

November 26, 2010
Marked Tundra Swan Blue Collar AK project

Reports Wanted! Marked (blue-collared) Tundra Swans Disperse from Alaska

November is migration time for Tundra Swans which pour forth from the north. All observers are asked to be vigilant for sightings of marked TUNDRA SWANS WITH BLUE NECK BANDS FROM ALASKA.  An impressive effort has gone into marking 1873 individuals in the last three years. Your observations will be key to success of this effort!
Marking Location,  Codes, #/year:2006 – 2008,  2009 , 2010,  Total #
Yukon Delta:  K###    (227)     (100)    (0 )     Total = 327
Alaska Peninsula (North) :    N###     (— )  (— )   (52)    Total = 52
Alaska Peninsula (North):  P###   (148)   (105)  (51)   Total = 304
Alaska Peninsula (South):  T###    (155)   (— )  (101 )   ( 256)

Koyukuk Drainage*:  T213-228, U075-U120, U390-U399  (66)  (—)  (–)  Total = 66
North Slope:   T172-212, 296-299 T3##   (84 )  (—)  (— )  Total=  84
Kotzebue Sound:   U###   (390)  (197) (197 )  Total = 784
Totals:  (2006-2008 = 1070    (2009 = 402)   (2010 = 401)   Total to date: 1873
* Collars with codes U075 – U120 have the letter separated from the numbers (oriented

In 2008, 50 swans were implanted with satellite transmitters, many of which are still functioning. Birds with transmitters were not collared, but have a black antenna exiting near the base of the tail. The movements of these swans can be followed at our web site:

PLEASE REPORT ANY OBSERVATIONS TO the USGS Bird Banding Lab ) to the Trumpeter Watch program of TTSS or direct to biologist
Craig Ely
Alaska Science Center
4210 University Drive Anchorage, AK 99508
Phone: (907) 786-7182

This Alaska office, as well as the Bird Banding Lab WILL PROVIDE ALL OBSERVERS WITH A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BANDED SWAN THEY OBSERVED. Those reported to TTSS will be forwarded to the BBL and to Craig. Thank you!



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.