Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Monitoring Beaver Pond, ID

June 19, 2014

This weekend (June 14-15) The Trumpeter Swan Society Interns, Annie and Bill, headed up near the Island Park area of southeastern Idaho to check on a potential swan nesting site.  The site is on Beaver Pond in the Targhee National Forest, a pond secluded by a berm created from an old lava flow.  We arrived at the site and quietly hiked up the old basalt mound, hiding behind as many trees as possible to conceal ourselves (while still keeping an eye out for any roaming grizzlies).  We reached the outermost rim of trees around the pond and did a quick scan with our binoculars; nothing.  We took out our spotting scope, set up our tripod, and took another scan from between a few nearby bushes.  Still nothing.  We waited for the better part of a half hour but saw no sign of any Trumpeter Swans or their nest.  The pond itself was covered almost entirely in lily pads and pondlilies.  We have since learned from Greater Yellowstone Coordinator, Ruth Shea, that swans are sometimes capable of concealing themselves, necks included, completely underneath this underwater vegetation and will hide themselves until the perceived threat (in this case, The Trumpeter Swan Society Interns) has left their nesting area.  This pond has had a newly established pair for a few years now and has been managed to encourage nesting.  The pair did breed and nest on Beaver Pond during the 2013 season.  Another visit or perhaps an aerial survey will help us determine whether or not this pair has in fact not returned to nest this year.  For now there are no recorded nesting swans on Beaver Pond for the 2014 breeding season.  To be continued!


The Trumpeter Swan Society and Trumpeters Say Goodbye to a Great Friend, Joe Johnson

November 2, 2012

Joe Johnson at TTSS’s 22nd Conference, Polson, MT

On October 9, 2012, the Society lost Director and friend Joe Johnson. W. C. “Joe” Johnson wrote and implemented the restoration plan for Trumpeter Swans for Michigan and served as the State’s Trumpeter Swan restoration coordinator. He led the very successful effort to restore the magnificent Trumpeter to part of its historical nesting range after over a century.The native of Kalamazoo was best known for his waterfowl and wetland expertise, but his interests and experience were much broader. Joe was an avid hunter and served on the National Board of Directors of Pheasants Forever for 16 years. He was elected to the Board of Directors of The Trumpeter Swan Society in 2003 and was an active member and TTSS Conference participant for many years prior to that. Since 1987, he has been the Chair of the Mississippi Flyway Council’s Swan Committee, continuing to serve even in retirement. At the time of his swan song, he was leading the Flyway Council’s effort to revise the management plan for Trumpeters.

Joe worked at Michigan State University’s W. K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary for 48 years. He retired in 2007 after being the sanctuary’s Manager since 1985. In addition to his excellent work with swans, he was instrumental in the successful return of Giant Canada Geese to Michigan.

Joe spent his last days at Rose Arbor Hospice Center that is surrounded by a natural space with ponds frequented by flocks of Canada geese. As Joe’s family left Rose Arbor all of the geese took flight hours earlier than their normal routine to escort Joe to the his next Sanctuary. We will sorely miss his friendship and good counsel. We will have to search for someone else to keep us in line according to Robert’s Rules of Order. He was truly one of kind!

When he retired the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary established the Joe Johnson Endowment Fund for Wildlife Conservation Fellowship. This fund provides support for students who want to study and work with wildlife conservation and habitat preservation or restoration at the Sanctuary. The Directors and staff of TTSS are going to make a contribution to the fund to honor Joe for his outstanding contributions to swan conservation and his leadership in TTSS. We invite you to do the same.

You may contribute to the Joe Johnson Endowment Fund for Wildlife Conservation Fellowship online.

The Trumpeter Swan Society October 2012 Photograph of the Month

October 5, 2012

Trumpeter Swan © Mike Martin

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

Mike’s capture of the drops of water falling from the swan’s bill is just the start of all things right in his photo.  Yes, there might be some fortunate aspect like there was no wind, but the depth of field and the clarity of the primary focal points are all about Mike’s capabilities.

The water bokeh is only enhanced with the lack of wind chop on the water.  Imagine if there had been wind: The drops of water would disappear into the background and a messy background would mute the definition of the head and neck.  Mike went out to take photographs on the perfect day and was rewarded.

The pink “lip” (not all Trumpeter Swans have the pink “lip”), the bill, the eye, the neck and those water drops are all in crisp focus.  A high f-stop helps increase the depth-of-field, and again, Mike going out on a sunny day allowed him to utilize a higher f-stop.

Mike’s composition puts the swan’s eye just to the left of center allowing for a lead in from the right.  It also allows the neck to balance and circle the center-line of the canvas pushing the viewer’s perspective to the pink “lip” and then to those incredibly detailed drops of water.

Mike took the time to go out and photograph during the appropriate weather and then used his skills to come up with the best possible photograph.  I am not sure there would be any way to improve this outstanding photograph!

Featured Photographer for October 2012 – Mike Martin, State of Arkansas

From Mike:  “I am a native Arkansan and originally from Wynne, AR but I have lived most of my adult life in Northwest Arkansas.  I am a current resident of Cave Springs, AR.

I graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Criminology from Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, AR.  After graduating from college, I served as a pilot and officer in the U.S. Navy. My present profession spans over 30 years as a Human Resources professional in manufacturing, and I currently serves as the H.R. Director for Preformed Line Products in Rogers, AR.

I have been an avid nature and wildlife photographer for over 25 years.  I particularly enjoy the challenge of capturing birds in-flight and have a passion for birds of prey.  As an avid outdoorsman most of my life, I have coupled my knowledge of the outdoors with photography to capture animals in their natural habitats.

My photos have recently been published by the New York City Parks and Recreation Department, the New York State Parks Department, Cornell University’s Ornithology Department’s award winning website, “All About Birds” and the California Parks Department of Parks and Recreation.

Last year, one of my photos was selected for publication in a book entitled, Capture Arkansas.  The photo was one of only 200 photos selected for publication from over 63,000 submissions for this book that was published in November 2010.  In September 2010, one of my photos won the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Spotlight contest “People’s Choice” award. This photo was the highest voted photo by the general public from over 10,000 submissions.  And in May of 2011, another one of my photos won the Nature division in a photo contest sponsored by the Mid American Photography Symposium held in Eureka Springs, AR.  This same photo of a great blue heron was also awarded the “Grand Champion” award.”

More of Mike’s photos can be viewed at his website.

About the Photo:

From Mike:  This image was shot at Magness Lake near Heber Springs, AR.  This small lake has become a migration wintering spot for over 200 trumpeters who make this lake their home from around November to late February each year.  I arrived at the lake in the afternoon on Christmas Day, 2011.  Afternoons are when the swans arrive back at the lake after feeding in the surrounding farm fields during the day.  I love the challenge of capturing birds in flight and these majestic trumpeters are a beautiful sight returning in formation to the lake late in the day.  I happened to catch this mature trumpeter sipping water after a long day feeding in the fields and loved the effect of the water droplet that fell from its beak.

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

Remembering Harold H. Burgess, Trumpeter Swan Society Past President and Board of Directors

April 16, 2012

Last month, members, Board members and staff of The Trumpeter Swan Society were saddened to hear of the death of Harold Burgess.  Harold served on the Society’s Board of Directors and as President of TTSS for two terms. He was recently honored by the Society as one of the first recipients of the TTSS George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Award.  A copy of his obituary follows:

Harold H, Burgess

Harold H. Burgess died Tuesday, March 13, 2012, in Weslaco, TX, at age 94.  He was born in 1917 at Cedardale, Michigan.  Survivors include his children Thomas, Mary and Barbara, son-in-law Terry, grandchildren David, Hannah, and Betsy, granddaughter-in-law Crystal.  His wife Ruth; his parents Guy and Mary; his brothers Henry, Fred, Robert, Eugene, and James precede him in death.

After graduation from Deckerville High School, Harold served with the Civilian Conservation Corps in Upper Michigan.  He graduated from Michigan State College with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry.  In 1942, he became a superintendent at Firestone Rubber Plantation in Liberia, West Africa.  While traveling through the Liberian hinterland, he met his future wife, Ruth Longstaff, at Ganta Mission.

Returning to Michigan State College, he finished his Masters in Zoology.  After enlisting in the 8th Army Engineers, he married Ruth in December 1947 and served as a forestry adviser in Korea and later as an agriculture adviser in Japan.

In 1950 he began 30 years with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, managing four National Wildlife Refuges of the Missouri-Mississippi watershed in succession, completing his career at the Area Office in North Kansas City, Missouri.  For a second 30 years after retirement, he volunteered at various nature sanctuaries, wildlife refuges, and state parks.  Those in Texas included Laguna Atascosa NWR, Lower Rio Grande NWR, Santa Ana NWR, Valley Nature Center, and Estero Llano Grande State Park.  He also took part in the Texas Breeding Bird Atlas, Elder Hostel programs, as well as both the Frontera and the Rio Grande Valley Audubon Societies.  Harold received The Valley Nature Center’s “Outstanding Naturalist Award” for 2002.

Though interested in all birds, Harold considered himself an avian ecologist rather than an ornithologist.  After initial work with pheasants in Michigan, his career with the US Fish and Wildlife Service allowed projects improving the habitat of specific waterfowl at various National Wildlife Refuges.  At Upper Mississippi  (WI) he worked with Wood Ducks; at Union Slough ( IA), Blue-Winged Teal; at Squaw Creek (MO), Snow Geese and Canada Geese; and at Lacreek (SD), Trumpeter Swans.  Even in retirement on the Lower Rio Grande, he added another specialty:  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.

However, Harold had found his passion to be with Trumpeter Swans.  Trumpeters had nearly gone extinct in the 48 states by the 1930s.  The ensuing work of the Fish and Wildlife Service in preserving this nesting population, was extended by The Trumpeter Swan Society, whose mission is to restore the species to its previously existing breeding and migration ranges.  After retirement in 1980 he volunteered with The Trumpeter Swan Society, serving on the board of directors and two terms as president.

In lieu of flowers, friends are invited to consider making a donation to or becoming members of The Trumpeter Swan Society.   The family will appreciate cards and reminiscences from Harold’s many friends.  A memorial is planned later this spring and is open to the public.  It will take place June 16, 2012, at 2 PM at The Valley Nature Center, 301 S. Border Ave, Weslaco, (956) 969-2475.

The Trumpeter Swan Society April 2012 Photograph of the Month

April 11, 2012

Trumpeter Swan Flight Into Fall Color© by Mark Paulson


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

Mark’s image of the pair of Trumpeter Swans flying in front of the fall color shows a “planned” opportunity to share two very different subjects with the intent of highlighting the swans in the foreground.

Mark focused his camera on the swans, which was the planned highlight in the photo.  Each bird is in detailed focus including the eyes, wings and feet.

When you look at the background of exceedingly bright-colored foliage, it is muted.  This soft focus on the trees allows their color to come through and highlight the swans without the distraction of other objects stealing the focus.

The composition of the birds on the left side of the photo is a slightly different interpretation of the rule of thirds.  It is usually more appealing to the viewer to have the subject in either the left or right third of the photograph as opposed to the center.  In fact Mark’s swan’s heads are dead center in the photograph, which would appear to refute the rule.  But it is body of the swans that makes the rule of thirds work.  The head and neck of both birds are such a small component of the photograph, and this creates the effect with the bird’s bodies fitting the rule of thirds!

All of the above can happen with the focal length of the lens, but Mark saw the opportunity to put himself in a position to the have swans in the foreground and those trees in the background.  And it worked with exceptional results!

The Life History Moment

Waterfowl (including swans), cormorants, cranes and some shorebirds (and there may be other long distance diurnal migrants) utilize flight technics that essentially minimize impacts to the individual and spread the physical outlay to the other(s) in the flight.  With Mark’s pair of swans we do not see them flying side-by-side or one directly in front of the other.  We see the second bird behind and to the side of the lead bird.  This helps in two ways: First they are minimizing any potential accidental contact while flying (this would certainly help in trying to escape a predator!).  And second, the lead bird is “cutting” a hole in the wall of the air they are flying through.

In other words, like automobile racing, the second car does not have to expend as much fuel as the lead car does to achieve the same speed.  Of course they are built just a bit different than those cars, and it is because of the wings that they fly behind, but off to the side.  When that lead birds tires a little, the second bird will head to the front and the lead bird than reduces the amount of energy it utilizes (aka taking a breather).

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mark Paulson, State of Minnesota

From Mark:

“My current focus is on capturing perspectives of the natural world, concentrating on images of nature, wildlife and travel (the world). The experience of getting to and capturing the beauty of nature and the wildlife is a large part of my personal experience in photographing their imagery. Actually making the photograph to capture the scene, so it can be shared with others, is the other component I enjoy. I work to find the unique or different perspective when making photographs, giving the viewers a sense of the place that I experienced when making the images.”

Mark is a long time resident of the Lake Minnetonka area of Minnesota and has been taking photographs since the mid-1980s. Mark has taken several award-winning photographs and his work has been published in books and regional magazines and exhibited in local galleries. Mark has traveled extensively to numerous locations in the United States as well as many international destinations including: China, Egypt, Southern Africa, Thailand, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Fiji, Greece, Argentina, Japan, throughout Western Europe, various islands in the Caribbean, Central America, Mexico, etc. and has an extensive portfolio of photographs from these locales.

You can find Mark’s images at

About the Photo:

From Mark: “This image of the Trumpeter Swan pair was taken at Baker Park in Minnesota, (location of TTSS headquarters). There is a small pond in the park where Trumpeter Swans gather. I try to get images of the swans in flight, and especially during autumn, when the surrounding trees provide a colorful background to highlight the white swans. “

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society February 2012 Photograph of the Month

February 10, 2012

"Angelic" Trumpeter Swan by Mike Lentz



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

Mike’s image of the Trumpeter Swan flapping its wings early on a misty morning provides us the prospect of how to use misty weather to enhance a photograph.

Mike titles this “Angelic” and the ethereal feeling the mist adds to the picture has something to do with that title.  First thing we notice beyond the swan is the bokeh (we discussed how to accomplish this in an earlier version of Photo-of-the-Month), that muted blue and white area in the background without any focus.  The focal length of Mike’s lens adds to this, but the mist coming off of the river also softens the background and allows, actually makes the viewer focus on the bird.

The effect of the mist on the swan is subtle, but really does add to the photo!  First, notice that the eye and the rust on the head are tack sharp in focus, not being affected by the mist!  This draws the viewer to the bird and makes the initial contact.

The next aspect that your eye wanders to is the flight feathers or primaries on the wings.  The feather shafts are all visible, the feather edges are almost crisp but not blurred and while the secondaries become a little muted.  But when you look at the body feathers they are really muted without defined focus.

All of the above can happen with the focus of the lens, but I think it is the mist that makes these features so “angelic”.  And the reason for that is that the head and the breast/body feathers are on the same focal plane – or the same distance from Mike and his lens.  So the breast should have the same focus detail as the head and eyes – it doesn’t!

Mike saw the opportunity with mist rising from the river and used his capabilities as a photographer to create an outstanding photograph!

The Life History Moment

There are a few reasons we see swans (and other waterfowl) rise up and flap their wings without taking flight.  One could be that the swan had just finished preening and flapping the wings allows any “ruffled” feathers to fall in place.  There is also the opportunity to shake any water from the feathers, whether from foraging, droplets from the mist or as Mike describes below, it just finished a short bath.  There is also the thought out there that wing flapping shows dominance (perceived or otherwise?) relevant to other swans in the area.  Any other thoughts out there as to why swans might do this?

Featured Photographer for February, 2012 – Mike Lentz, State of Minnesota

Mike specializes in nature photography and nature photo instruction.  The world of natural history has always been a love of his, as is photography, and combining the two only seemed fitting.  You can find Mike’s images on:

About the Photo:

From Mike: “I was on the Mississippi River laying on the shoreline with many Trumpeters.  I spent most of my time concentrating my efforts on the individual birds.  This was a very cold day, it was -18 when I got out of my car and when I walked down to my spot and saw all the steam I knew the chance to capture a special image was possible.  In this moment the swan had just dipped in the water multiple times and was just opening up to do a flap his/her wings. “

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society Recognizes Lifetime Conservation Achievements with Awards

January 26, 2012

This summer, TTSS established the George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Award to recognize individuals who have made outstanding lifetime contributions to Trumpeter Swan conservation.  Our intent is to occasionally honor those pillars of swan conservation whose accomplishments, often over decades, helped to significantly improve the status and welfare of Trumpeter Swans. This fall, we are very proud to present the first George Melendez Wright Trumpeter Swan Conservation Awards to Jim King, Harry Lumsden, and Harold Burgess.  The photo depicts the award presentation at The Trumpeter Swan 22nd Conference, held in October, 2011 at Polson, Montana.

James King

Pioneer Alaskan Biologist-Pilot and Trumpeter Swan expert.  Designed and flew the initial Alaska Trumpeter survey in 1968.  TTSS Director, 1989-2011 and President, 1989-93 (photo, right).

Harry Lumsden (left) and Jim King (right)

Harry Lumsden

Architect of the Ontario Trumpeter Swan restoration program and longtime advocate for Trumpeter restoration in theMississippi and Atlantic Flyways.  TTSS Director, 1982-2011 (photo, left).

Harold Burgess

Longtime advocate and supporter of mid-continent Trumpeter restoration throughout the species’ historic range from nesting in Elk Island National Park, Alberta, to wintering on the Gulf Coast in Texas and Tamaulipas.   TTSS Director, 1976-89 and two-term President, 1981-82 and 1984-86.

Harold Burgess (middle), daughter (Mary Bote) and colleague Larry Ditto, presenting the award

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

Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

July 17, 2010
Trumpeter Swans Landing by Gail Miller

Trumpeter Swans Landing by Gail Miller

Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary (RMBS) is about 2 miles upstream of the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. The sanctuary, just 40 minutes north of St. Louis, is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property located at Lock and Dam #26. Most of the wetland habitat of RMBS is in Missouri (West Alton) though birds use adjacent habitat on the other side of the Mississippi River in Illinois (Alton). There is a warm-water outlet upstream at a power plant that enables the birds to overnight in extreme weather. Most years at least a small pool stays open in Ellis Bay for the birds.

Trumpeter Swans arrive at the end of October in small family groups of three to six. Upon arrival, Trumpeters fly low over the marshes, calling back and forth, before settling. Through mid-December, groups continue to arrive, some to stay the winter, others to rest before moving farther and farther south.

In 1999, the RMBS winter population was about 30 birds. A decade later, in the winter of 2008-2009, the mid-December high count, when winter residents and migrants are present, was 560. This past winter (2009-2010), the RMBS wintering flock was estimated at 440.

Staff and volunteers of RMBS record the band numbers, tally daily counts, and record mortality, which occurs mainly from power line collisions, high lead levels, and illegal shooting. Between 2002 and 2008, an impressive total of 72 collared birds was noted. Most of the birds are from the Wisconsin population with collared birds from Iowa and Ohio recorded as well. Hatch-year birds comprise 20 percent of the total.

RMBS is internationally recognized as part of the Great Rivers Confluence Important Bird Area. There are local bird walks on most weekends, and organized Bald Eagle watches are conducted during the peak numbers in January and February. The large size of the Trumpeters, and their relative tameness, make them a subject of many photographers. An astute observer will find 10 to 20 Tundra Swans among the birds, and the occasional Mute Swan.

Riverland’s bird list is 300+, including several state firsts: Ross’ Gull, Slaty-back Gull, Black Skimmer, Smew. 18 species of gulls are on the area list. During the winter the sonorous bass of the Trumpeters provides a counterpoint to the raucous calls of the gulls. Each day, and every movement, begins with head bobbing and calling. When the area is frozen, the birds will sleep until well after sunrise, but, as the days warm, they are up and about at daybreak. By mid-February, the swans begin to move north and the marshes again go silent.

Article contributed by David Rogles, President, St. Louis Audubon Society
and State Compiler,  North American Migration Count.


January 22, 2010

TTSS urges the rapid end to the use of this toxic substance in all hunting, other shooting activities, and fishing and conversion to the use of alternative nontoxic substances.
— TTSS Board of Directors, April 20, 2008

Trumpeter Swan Preening by Beverly Kingdon, Ontario

TTSS has posted some detailed and sobering news about lead poisoning in Trumpeter Swans on our website. We note some progress has been made in the last decade, but emphasize that we face numerous challenges ahead if we are to alleviate the threat of this toxin. The first part of the article details strategies being used to cope with lead problems in Washington State. The second part gives excellent background material on causes of lead poisoning, symptoms of lead poisoning, and the real facts on lead shot vs. nontoxic ammunition.  We provide a clear-cut list on what you can do to help, outlines existing regulations, and recommend links to other websites for further detail. Since 1999, lead shot has killed over 2,300 wintering swans in Washington and British Columbia. TTSS has been working hard with the Canadian Wildlife Service, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other nonprofit organizations, and concerned citizens to find the source of the lead shot, so that it can be cleaned up.