Archive for the ‘Population Update by Region’ Category

The Trumpeter Swan Society Receives Major Grant from the Yellowstone to Yukon Consevation Initiative for Work in Montana’s Centennial Valley

May 26, 2012

Trumpeters in Centennial Valley by Jess Lee

The Trumpeter Swan Society is most grateful to the (Y2Y) Partner Grants Program for supporting our efforts to protect to swan habitat in Montana’s Centennial Valley.  Y2Y recently announced their grant of $4,500 to support our Centennial Valley Cooperative Wetland Conservation Project. The Centennial Valley, including Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, contains the single-most important nesting and molting habitat for Greater Yellowstone’s fragile Trumpeter Swan nesting flock.

Preventing damage to these habitats and where possible improving their quality is a top priority for TTSS.  Some of these wetlands also provide important habitat for Grayling, which might be listed as threatened or endangered in the near future.  Without great care, there is potential for some actions that would benefit Grayling to damage important swan habitats. In addition, at some sites water delivery problems and increasing human disturbance jeopardize swan nesting success.

Working closely with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Montana, and other conservation partners, we will be working to develop a model program to minimize damage to swan habitat from fish conservation efforts and seek ways to improve swan habitat where possible. We will also be working with private landowners and public land managers to improve water levels and reduce disturbance of swans in historic habitats.

Trumpeter Pair in the Centennial Valley by Jess Lee

New Video Highlights the Strong Relationship Between Trumpeter Swans and Dairy Farms in Washington State

April 29, 2012

Trumpeter Swans Feed on Field Corn at one Washington State’s Dairy Farms
Photo by Art Wolfe

Writer and naturalist Jenn Dean of Washington’s Snoqualmie Valley has produced a five-minute video that will bring current issues of Trumpeter Swans wintering in western Washington to the forefront. With engaging footage of both Trumpeter Swans and dairy cows, she points to their direct relationship. TTSS estimates as many as 85% of Trumpeters in Washington are currently dairy dependent. They thrive on waste corn.  Jenn interviews dairy farmer Andy Werkhoven, who with his brother Jim, has been in the dairy business, farming, for thirty years.  He details the increase of sightings over the last ten years, a period in which Pacific Coast Population numbers have climbed. Washington may now host some 27,000 Trumpeters in winter, so their future is integrally tied to the future of rural land and dairy farms. While death from ingestion of lead pellets has claimed some 2300 Trumpeters over the last decade, TTSS feels that loss of habitat is an equal threat to future swan populations.  Watch Jenn Dean’s video for further detail.  TTSS thanks Jenn Dean for her work in making this video to help the public understand issues that face swans, and The Trumpeter Swan Society’s role in assuring their present and future security.

Washington Swan Stewards Swan Rescue Response Team, An Update from the Field

April 25, 2012

TTSS Washington Swan Stewards Response Team Captures M35

A mid-April Capture

In May, 2011, TTSS and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released two captive reared Trumpeter Swan yearlings, M35 and M36 into the wild.  It was an experiment to see if Trumpeter Swans could live in an urban setting with lots of lakes and homes. Problems occurred when one of the swans began regularly showing aggression to humans, so ahead of the breeding season almost a year later, WDFW and TTSS decided that the two swans must be caught and returned to captivity both for human safety as well as their own. 

 Thus began our  attempts to catch these free spirited, free flying youngsters.  The person who had been watching over them and feeding them all year was very helpful since M36 came up to him on a regular basis.   “We lured the swan up onto the lawn using decoys. While M36 was busy posturing in a turf battle with the decoys I netted him. M35 proved to be more elusive since he did not keep a regular schedule and was now hanging out on Long Lake, about 1 mile away.    Russ McMillan and Chris Maynard took their small boat over to Long Lake to look for the swan.  Just after I left them at the boat launch they called to tell me that M35 was standing on the launch area about 5 feet from them.  I suggested that if they could get the swan within a foot of them they could likely attempt a hand capture.  What happened next was creative thinking at its best.  When I arrived back at the boat launch I found Chris lying on the ground holding the swan with a white blanket covering its head.  The photo says it all for how this went down: Russ under blanket, Chris behind.  They lured the swan about 10 more feet up the boat launch where Chris lay on the ground. Russ wiggling under the blanket got M35 to come up to him out of curiosity.  Chris rolled up and put his arms around the swan. Capture accomplished.”

Both swans are now safely in captivity. They will be placed in captive breeding programs where their new mates await them.  TTSS thanks WDFW District Wildlife Biologist Michelle Tihri for all her time and assistance, and all those that volunteered, Russ McMillan, Chris Maynard, Paul Fischbach and avian veterinarian Scott Ford.  A special thank you to Larry James for the year he spent making sure the boys were looked after during their wild year.



Trumpeter Swan Nest Survey Counts Reach Record High in 2011

September 28, 2011

Nesting Trumpeter Swan photo by Alan Sachanowski

A Recent Note from biologist and TTSS Board Member Sumner Matteson in Madison, Wisconsin:

In case folks inquire, we had a new record Wisconsin high of 192 nesting pairs of Trumpeter Swans in 23 counties.  Approximately 45 percent of nesting pairs occurred in two counties:  Polk and Burnett in northwestern Wisconsin.  In 2010, there were 176 nesting pairs in 24 counties, and in 2009, the former nesting peak was reached at 183 in 23 counties.  So, we continue our upward trend, but who’s counting?  This was our 25th year of the Trumpeter Swan Recovery Program, which has come a long way since our returning Board member, Becky Abel, helped with cross-fostering back in 1988 and then started her Master’s work on decoy-rearing in 1989. 

We fly the next few weeks to get a good handle on cygnet survival to fledging.  This summer, we again marked 100 cygnets during our roundups, thanks to the support of scores of volunteers, including about 20 interns from the International Crane Foundation in central Wisconsin.  Pat Manthey continues to coordinate field activities in northern Wisconsin, while I handle duties in central Wisconsin.  I concluded my fund-raising activities for the swan program, and we have sufficient funds for one more season of field work.  This will complete my post-delisting obligation to the state’s Natural Resources Board for annual monitoring of nesting swans.  Pat and I will have a 2-day retreat later this fall to chart a new course for the Department of Natural Resources for future swan monitoring, and I suspect that after next year, coordinated, statewide surveys of Trumpeters will likely occur once every 10 years.  

From Peg Abbott, Outreach Coordinator of TTSS:  Fascinating footage of recent capture and banding efforts can been seen on two YouTube videos, one from the perspective of a kayak paddler and another from land. I can tell you the kayak paddlers got a workout! 

Video one is from a kayak during the chase:

Video two is from the shore overlooking the efforts of the capture:

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.

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: 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.