UPDATED 11-6-13 at 3:10 p.m.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — This year's crop of trumpeter swans was still putting on a snow last week for visitors to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters area.
For the first time in decades, two pairs pulled of clutches of cygnets this spring. The families provided plenty of wildlife viewing entertainment during the spring and summer.
Each family lost at least one of the offspring, but the survivors are looking strong and frisky and ready to migrate to wherever they go when iced-over ponds force them to leave Turnbull during winter.
Local photographer Carlene Hardt, who produced a book about the Turnbull trumpeters that's available at the Turnbull store, snapped these photos of one family and the playful cygnets last week. Said Hardt:
I was at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge last Friday and I was delighted to see both Trumpeter swan families on Middle Pine. It was good to see that one swan pair still has three cygnets. Unfortunately, the other pair has only two remaining cygnets (out of the 4 that hatched). One cygnet was recently found dead.
I started photographing them just before sunset when they were very active and vocal. They were interacting with each other and sometimes chasing each other. It was fun to watch!
Mike Rule, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist at Turnbull offered these encouraging insights into what's going with the refuge swans:
The loss of the 2 cygnets from the Middle Pine Lake pair was unfortunate. One was lost about 3-4 weeks after hatching. We never found the carcass. The death of the 2nd cygnet occurred on the 22nd or 23rd of October. I am not sure of the cause of death , but I don't think it ever fledged like the other two in that brood. I observed the 2 adults and 2 cygnets flying around on the 19th and the one cygnet was still on Middle Pine. We did collect the body and it has been sent to the Madison Wildlife Health Lab. Hopefully we will hear back soon about the cause of death.
We have recently been seeing a group of 11 flying around so the 2 pairs and there young of this year have picked up a couple of swans from the previous years' broods. I expect to see more any day now. We are hoping more of the 2009 and 2010 cygnets will return to nest next year. Winslow Pool, which has been dry for 2 years now because of a failed water control structure, has been repaired and is refilling. This has been an important swan pond, it is the original swan display pond where the first cygnets were released on the refuge. So having it functioning again is a real plus for the swans.