Posts Tagged ‘Yellowstone’

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society May 2012 Photograph of the Month

May 11, 2012

Dawn on the Madison: Trumpeter Swan , Cygnus buccinator© by Jeff Wendorff

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

Jeff’s image of the Trumpeter Swan on the Yellowstone’s Madison River shows the importance of positioning yourself to get the optimum chance for a great photograph and the timing to accentuate different colors during that “sweet” light of early morning or late afternoon.  And having led many tours to Yellowstone myself, Jeff’s shot just exemplifies the knowledge of how to get a “natural moment” shot.

I know all of us have been to parks where a wildlife sighting is cause for most everyone to rush to the subject and click away.  And there are times (mating, dominance etc.) where it is appropriate to subtly and safely approach your subject and try to capture the moment.

But in the world of wildlife photography, you usually get your best shots by planning your time in the field (early morning when wildlife is beginning daytime activities or early evening when nocturnal wildlife start to forage) and also knowing the habits of your subject.

Jeff took the time to get into the field at dawn prior to sunrise.  Without having done that, the pink pastel reflection on the water would have been long gone and not even be a possibility for inclusion in the photograph.  We have all seen how rapidly a sky (and its reflected color) can disappear or change.

Most very good wildlife photographers know that it is usually best to let the wildlife come to you.  You will get a more relaxed pose from the subject, and you will see actions that are natural and not necessarily based on the animal’s response to your presence.  For me, this is the number one rule to follow to get the “natural moment” photograph!

Jeff also used a long lens which brought the foreground reflection and water into focus along with the swan.  Notice how the background fades into “nothingness”, thereby not taking away from the focal point of the photograph.

An obvious personal decision of the photographer is always where to put your subject in the photograph?  We have discussed the rule of thirds in the past regarding placement of your subject as Jeff has followed.  But Jeff’s decision on whether to include the reflection or not is a personal one.

If Jeff had decided to crop the reflection out of the photo, there still would be a partial reflection – and that might appear “awkward”.  To make your own decision, hold you hand away from your face and towards Jeff’s picture on the monitor.  Now move you hand up and down to see the different compositions with the reflection, without and partial.  As I did this, it made me very aware that Jeff’s decision to include the complete reflection was the most appealing to my perspective.

Jeff saw the opportunity of the swan moving down river and used his capabilities as a photographer to position himself to capture an outstanding swan photograph with the sky reflecting on the water!

The Life History Moment

A movement that could only be captured in a burst of photographs or a movie would show that Trumpeter Swan heads are not static when they are on the water.  Jeff’s shot shows just one position of the bird he was photographing – extended.

“Trumpeter Swans frequently bob their head and necks up and down (head bobbing). With this motion they also have a variety of vocalizations. This combined activity apparently serves as a form of communication between individuals and within the group. Head bobbing and vocalization activity increase when the birds are disturbed and reaches maximum intensity just prior to the birds taking flight. This behavior may be brief or absent if the birds are suddenly startled and take flight.”

Featured Photographer for May, 2012 – Jeff Wendorff, State of Louisiana

From Jeff:  Nature Photographer, Workshop Leader, Writer

I’ve been a professional photographer for almost 10 years and my focus is on the natural world. I have a particular passion for photographing birds, but am very opportunistic and when a moment presents itself, I try to capture it. That was particularly true with this Trumpeter Swan image.

Jeff’s work has been widely published from books and magazines to cans of cat food in China. He leads photography workshops throughout the year focusing on birds and nature photography. Jeff lives in New Orleans and is finishing his first book, Photographing New Orleans, to be published this fall.

You can read about all of his antics, workshops and photography at

About the Photo:

From Jeff:  It was taken in Yellowstone last winter and we were there primarily for the big game in winter. On our way in to the park along the Madison, we came upon a lone swan swimming in the river. We were able to move ahead and pull off of the road and get our gear ready for the swans arrival. It was one of those magical moments, when the subject came in to range and the sunlight cast a perfect pink glow of the dawn on the swan and the Madison River.

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

22nd Trumpeter Swan Society Conference Final Agenda Released

October 5, 2011

Trumpeter Swan experts and enthusiasts from all regions of North America will soon convene in Montana. The final agenda for The Trumpeter Swan Society’s upcoming October 10-14, 2012 conference, in Polson is replete with experts on topics ranging from lead poisoning issues to genetic viability to recent results of the 5-Year 2010 Trumpeter Swan Survey. Find a list of speakers and topics on the Society’s website.

Dale Becker, TTSS Board President and biologist with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT), and Steve Lozar, CSKT Tribal Council Member will lead off with opening remarks, and a welcome to the Flathead Indian Reservation, co-sponsors of the Conference. Speakers scheduled for the October 11th,  Tuesday morning session will provide an overview of Trumpeter Swan population and issues, including an update on the 2010 North American Trumpeter Swan Survey. John Cornely, Executive Director, will describe the Society’s past, present and future, before kicking off an in-depth session on the pressing issue of conservation of Greater Yellowstone’s flocks. Susan Patla will speak Trumpeter status in Wyoming; Adonia Henry and Ruth Shea will discuss strategies for long term viability of Idaho’s Trumpeters. Gary Ivey, Board Vice President, will then chair a dynamic panel of experts including William Smith (USFWS), Rob Cavallaro (IDFG), J. Michael Scott (Univ. of Idaho), Jim Roscoe (Centennial Valley Assn.), and Kyle Cutting (USFWS).

After lunch, the agenda focus will be on Trumpeter Swan restoration efforts and genetic implications of programs, past and present. Several Montana projects will be featured by Janene Lichtenberg and Dale Becker (CSKT) and Clair Gower (MFWP), as well as an update of the Oregon program by Gary Ivey, and an overview of the situation for Trumpeters in Yellowstone, presented by Douglas W. Smith (NPS). Capping this session will be a talk by genetics expert Sara J. Oyler-McCance (USGS).

The afternoon will conclude with a session on managing for long-term viability, bringing in lessons learned from Greater Sage Grouse management, presented by Edward O. Garton (Univ. of Idaho). Effective use of partnerships to accomplish goals for viability will be discussed by Dan Casey (American Bird Conservancy), with the afternoon session concluding with a panel and group discussion on a long term conservation vision for Greater Yellowstone.

Wednesday, October 12th is slated for an all day field trip to highlight Trumpeter Swan Restoration on the Flathead Indian Reservation, with visits to Pablo NWR, Ninepipe NWR and the Blackfoot River Valley to hear more on northern Montana’s efforts. That evening, filmmakers Steve and Char Harryman seek input from conference participants as they begin a five-year project to tell the remarkable story of the Trumpeter Swan.

Thursday, October 13 promises to be a full and exciting day. The morning sessions will feature updates on the Pacific Coast Population in Alaska and Canada. Board member Jim Hawkings will chair reports from Deborah J. Groves and John I. Hodges (USFWS), William Quirk (Anchorage), Karen S. Bollinger (USFWS), and Board member Jim King. After a break, Board member Joe Johnson chairs a session on Trumpeter Swan research; speakers include: Jim Hawkings (CWS), Harry Lumsden (TTSS Board, Ontario), Kyle Cutting (USFWS), and Mike Smith (Univ. of WA), who will address issues of lead shot poisoning in swans.

Topics after lunch hone in on the remarkable restoration of Interior populations, chaired by Ron Andrews, TTSS Board member recently retired from Iowa DNR. Speakers include Joe Johnson (TTSS Board, Michigan State Univ. Kellog Bird Sanctuary), Larry Gillette (Three Rivers Park District, MN), Wayne Brininger (USFWS), Dave Hoffman (IDNR), and Harry Lumsden.

The final session prior to the Thursday evening banquet is chaired by Becky Abel, TTSS Board member, wrapping up the conference with a focus on managing Interior and Pacific Coast populations. Shilo Comeau (USFWS) will speak on the High Plains flock, and Roger Grosse (USFWS) will discuss landscape-level habitat use in the Sandhills of Nebraska and South Dakota. All speakers and participants have a special treat in store, learning about George Melendez Wright, a pioneer for Trumpeter Swan Conservation, in the key note address given by Jerry Emory of the California Parks Foundation. Mr. Wright’s great influence on science-based wildlife management in our National Parks was prominently featured in the Ken Burns historical series on our nation’s parks. Participants staying on through the 14th are invited to join informal field trips to wildlife-rich areas in and around Polson.

Registration remains open and can be done online, or by contacting the Society’s Executive Director, John Cornely (303) 933-9861

Details on the conference hotel and specifics can be found on the Society’s website.  Photo by TTSS member, A. Frederickson.

The Trumpeter Swan Society May 2011 Photograph of the Month

May 12, 2011

Trumpeter Swan taking flight by Max Waugh/

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

So many photographers are discouraged when they find their day in the field is overcast and cloudy.  And in most respects, their subjects will look better on a bright, sun-filled day.  But a white bird against white snow can create a photograph with high levels of contrast between the water, the bird and the snow.  Max’s photo shows that an overcast day is actually an ideal situation for deadening the contrast that would have been readily evident on a sunny day.

The composition of the photograph, with a clear area in front of the bird to fly into, takes advantage of allowing the swan to lead us into the setting of the photograph.  With relatively close shots such as this, it seems to work better to have the subject mid-photograph on the vertical axis.  When the subject is further afield that center placement is not nearly as critical.

The drops of water in the air and the head and wings of the swan are all in focus, creating an action-filled photograph with great depth-of-field.  With the out-stretched wings and splashes both in the foreground and behind the bird (along with the taking flight run of the bird), Max has created an outstanding photograph of an adult Trumpeter Swan against the background of steel-gray water and snow!

Featured Photographer for May, 2011 – Max Waugh, Seattle, Washington

Max Waugh is a part time nature, travel and sports photographer.  He enjoys traveling around the world in search of wildlife, but always takes time to visit Yellowstone every year.  Max’s family recently built a cabin near the park, which will hopefully be an excuse to spend even more time there.  When he’s not on the road, Max lives in the Seattle area with his wife Jenn and their hedgehog Triscuit.

More of Max’s work can be seen at

About the Photo:

“We encountered the swans during a snow coach tour into the interior of Yellowstone National Park in February of 2011.  It was my first winter trip to the interior, and I knew that our destination of Old Faithful wouldn’t yield much in the way of wildlife.  I urged our guide to make a short detour along the Madison River on the way back, in hopes of finding some swans (which I had not photographed in a few years).  We lucked out, finding a family of four trumpeters, and a second pair floating further down the river.  The pair passed us as I photographed from the bank, and then decided to take off in an explosion of flapping and splashing.  The detour certainly paid off, and made the whole tour worthwhile.”

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

The Trumpeter Swan Society March 2011 Photograph of the Month

March 11, 2011

Jess Lee's Trumpeter Swans

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

Jess’ photograph of the Trumpeter Swan family is one of those photos where your eye is drawn to the central bird with open wings and then your eye relaxes and takes in the other three birds.

There is a simplicity to the birds being centered in the photograph, but complexity develops with the three birds at rest and preening along with the upright adult in the background.  The cygnets blend into the darkness of the water, but are plainly visible as you search for details.  And though the remaining bright adult could easily pull the eye away from everything else, it is the upright adult that steals the show.

I like the crisp detail of the flight feathers and the shadow of the neck on the wing.  The rippled water and very light mist softens the dark background and releases any potential contrast issue with the water and the birds.

Jess uses his behavioral knowledge of the swans and his photographic expertise to create a unique photograph of a situation that could very easily be another swan “family shot”.

Featured Photographer for March, 2011 – Jess Lee, Island Park, Idaho

“Jess Lee’s home and business is located a short distance from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  He has been living, photographing, guiding and instructing in the Yellowstone eco-system for over 30 years.”  While this is a great nature, wildlife and travel destination, Jess finds time to spend over 200 days in the field adding to his large stock file.

Jess has been very generous in sharing his outstanding Trumpeter Swan photographs with the Society (See another great photo in the November, 2009 blog “Photo of the Month”).   And if you want to learn more on how Jess captures these images, check out his web page and learn so much more.

And while you are on his web page, check out Jess’ series of workshops.  He travels to different parts of North America and the world sharing his photographic knowledge.

We are pleased that Jess was willing to share this “keeper” shot in support of Trumpeter Swans and The Trumpeter Swan Society. Find more of his images at

Trumpeter Swan Society Photo of the Month – JUNE 2009

June 5, 2009
Mike Dunn - Trumpeter Swan Takeoff in Yellowstone Mike Dunn – Trumpeter Swan Takeoff in Yellowstone

Professional Photographer & TTSS Photo of the Month Host Greg Smith says:

Mike Dunn’s image of a Trumpeter Swan taking flight in the middle of the Yellowstone winter elicits thoughts of elegance in its tones. In this outstanding color photograph that is displayed in shades of black and white, Mike was able to capture each feather’s detail along with droplets of water in the foreground. The ethereal feel of this photo is enhanced by an all-white bird against an all-white background – an incredibly challenging photographic situation that was met with success!

Mike Dunn – Featured Photographer of the Month
Our featured photographer, Mike Dunn, lives in Chatham County, NC , where he has worked 18 years as an educator at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Favorite photography spots include his local area, Yellowstone National Park and Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge near Plymouth, NC. He has had articles and photographs published in Wildlife in North Carolina magazine, Carolina Country and is a frequent contributor to the Museum’s Naturalist magazine.

Mike conducts workshops every winter along the North Carolina coast to experience the magic of Tundra Swans in their winter home and has helped band swans on several occasions. Of this photo he says, “Seeing Trumpeter Swans in Yellowstone is magical. This shot was taken one gray morning along the Yellowstone River as it winds its way through Hayden Valley. The slapping sound made as they run across the water to get airborne is something that sticks with you – I can hear it every time I look at this picture.”


Behind-the-Scenes: Flyway Council Management / Meetings

March 8, 2009
Trumpeter Swan, Madison River, Yellowstone  photo by Mark Wetzel

Trumpeter Swan, Madison River, Yellowstone photo by Mark Wetzel

Countless hours are spent behind the scenes to assure the future of Trumpeter Swans and TTSS is a dynamic part of this process. Because Trumpeters are migratory birds that cross International boundaries, ultimate responsibility for their conservation falls to the Federal Governments of the U.S. and Canada. This responsibility has been delegated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service. These agencies in turn depend on states, provinces, and territories for assistance in managing migratory birds. Since 1948, Flyway Councils have been set up as administrative units for each of the four major migratory routes for birds in North America: Atlantic, Mississippi, Central and Pacific.
(See a map of flyways at:

Flyway Council members (1 representative for each state, province or territory involved) and biologists assigned to Technical Committees gather at a series of meetings each year to coordinate management, review data from monitoring programs and make recommendations to the federal agencies on a variety of issues. Much of the purpose is to regulate and set waterfowl hunting seasons. Each of the four flyways has a specific committee that deals with swan issues for Tundra, Trumpeter and Mute Swans.

TTSS Executive Director John Cornely, Board Members, and some of our regular members attend official Flyway Council meetings each year to advocate for Trumpeter Swans and to encourage support for the agencies that manage them. The Atlantic and Mississippi Flyway Technical Sections met in late February; Central and Pacific Flyway meetings are scheduled this year in the first half of March.

The United States has International Treaties with Canada, Mexico, Japan and Russia that govern conservation of shared migratory bird resources. In subsequent TTSS Blog postings we will detail behind-the-scenes work of dedicated biologists and managers working on Trumpeter Swans. We’ll describe the framework in which they work. Largely through their efforts we, our children and grandchildren can continue to enjoy the amazing spectacle of migratory birds.