WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are back in a family way at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week.
The photo at the bottom of this post shows the female rising above a newly hatched FIFTH cygnet onThursday morning as two siblings look on from the nest. I made the photo just off the paved trail at Middle Pine Lake near the refuge headquarters.
The male was on the water with two cygnets that hatched on Monday or Tuesday when I arrived today just before 8 a.m.
Two more cygnets could be seen partially under the wing of the female on the nest.
I sat for a long time across from the nest, watching as the male took his pair to the far end of Middle Pine Lake and rested with them on the shore.
At 9:30 a.m., the female began making muffled honks. The male got in the water with the two cygnets and started swimming toward the nest. Just as he got there, the two cygnets under the mother’s wing crawled out, the female stood up and Presto! Up popped the very weak head of the FIFTH cygnet for a brief second before it lay back down.
The male paraded past a few times, as shown in the other photo. The female seemed to be showing off the new arrival.
Visitors willing to walk less than a mile round trip will be able to enjoy the family all summer.
“The cygnets will be stuck there for awhile since we have Cheever Lake drawn down for dam repairs,” said Mike Rule, refuge biologist.
The female mated in 2009 with the late Solo, the male trumpeter who faithfully returned to Turnbull for two decades as a widower before finding a breeding female and ending Turnbull's drought of trumpeter production.
Solo and his new mate raised broods in 2009 and 2010. They returned last year, but Solo disappeared before they could mate, ending what biologists estimate was a remarkable 35-48 year tenure at the refuge.
The identity of the father is unknown . We thought the swan hanging around with her since spring of last year was one of her 2010 cygnets. She was seen with a juvenile swan for most of 2011. This spring she has been with a single adult swan that was very territorial. Since her 2010 cygnet is not sexually mature, it is possible an unrelated older adult formed a pair bond this past spring as a few trumpeters move through the area at that time.