Posts Tagged ‘Michigan’

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.

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.

The Trumpeter Swan Society Photo-of-the-Month November 2010

November 11, 2010

Trumpeter Swan by John VanOrman

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

John’s photograph shows well balanced lighting between the light-colored snow and swan and the black bill and feet.  It is almost easier to photograph the swan on a white background as opposed to a medium or dark background given the issues surrounding contrast.  John was able to define feathers and snow patterns while still showing definition on both the right foot of the bird and the bill.  Superb lighting!

Histograms help analyze the lighting of a photograph and are helpful in assessing the light on a photograph. Check out this definition of a histogram.

A histogram is a graph counting the pixels at each level between black and white.  Black is on the left, while white is to the right.  The height of the graph at each point depends on the brightness of the pixels.  Lighter images move the graph to the right, while darker ones move it to the left.

While histograms are an analytical tool to help assess the lighting, the final decision on a photograph should be from the photographer’s visual perspective.

And with a light-colored subject and background John was able to shoot with an aperture setting that provided a great depth of field.  Look at primaries nine and ten (primary feathers are counted from the inside out to the end of the wing)) on both wings and you will see the same level of focus on both.  Given the crisp focus on the eye (which should just about always be the sharpest aspect of the photograph), and the definition on the primaries, John created a well balanced and lighted photograph of this Trumpeter Swan with out-stretched wings!

Featured Photographer for November, 2010 –  John VanOrman, Michigan

John B. VanOrman graduated from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan with a Bachelor of Science Degree in biology and from Western Michigan University with a Master’s Degree in ecology. During his studies at Western he studied bird populations along the Lake Michigan shoreline. John has taught biology for 35 years.  John believes that photography can be a useful tool for developing a sense of stewardship in individuals.

We are pleased that John was willing to share this outstanding shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. To see more of his photos, please visit web page at