Posts Tagged ‘Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary’

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.

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.