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
|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 locationOgemaw 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.