Posts tagged: trumpeter swans
WILDLIFE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney is in a family way this month with critters birthing and hatching young all over the place. (See list of 108 bird species documented at Turnbull in just two weeks at end of this post).
Fans of the late the trumpeter swan named Solo will revel in news that TWO trumpeter pairs are nesting at the refuge this year, up from one pair last year and no pairs for 22 years before 2009.
Solo was one of the original Turnbull trumpeters who lost his mate to a predator in the 1980s. He defended his territory at Turnbull through a 22-year drought without a suitable breeding partner before siring a family in 2009.
The trumpeters are crowd pleasers because they're so visible. The nesting pairs are on Middle Pine and Cheever ponds. If all goes well and their cygnets hatch in June, the attentive parents will parade their families for all to see from the visitor paths all summer and into the fall.
Amateur photographer Carlene Hardt focused on the trumpeters for two years and recently published a nifty book of photos and trumpeter information, “A Swan and His Family.” The book, available at the Turnbull Refuge headquarters store, chronicles Solo's family life for several years.
Also worth checking out at the store is the booklet, “Discover Birds at Turnbull,” published after years of research by students at the former Discovery School. The book has good information about a variety of Turnbull bird species with photos by local expert photographers.
The book is a showcase for Turnbull's service in providing wildlife and nature education for up to 8,000 students who visit the refuge each year.
Meanwhile, don't forget all the other bird species found at the refuge. Click “continue reading” for Tuesday's report report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Migrating waterfowl are providing plenty of noise and action for birdwatchers visiting Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this week. Here's today's report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:
For the past week there have been over 100 white swans on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge's Cheever Lake. Mixed in are a few hundred northern pintail, wigeon, and mallards. Common golden-eyes , hooded mergansers, buffleheads, ring-necked ducks, and a few canvasbacks were also observed.
Last year's nesting pair of trumpeter swans and their off spring have been hanging out in Middle Pine Lake. Common snipe have been winnowing the last two mornings.
In case you're not familiar with the northern pintail, it's a subtly-colored puddle duck species that ranks high in eye appeal and aerodynamics. Here's a tip of the hat to The Designer, and to Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson for the photo reminder.
WILDLIFE — Just a few years ago we were amazed to see a single Trumpeter swan return Solo year after year, decade after decade at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
That old bird left his mark. After finally mating and producing a few broods, trumpeter swans have taken hold at the refuge south of Cheney. With the ice gone, we can expect another year of pleasant viewing from the walking trails near the headquarters.
At least three of the five cygnets hatched at Turnbull last year survived through fall.
Carlene Hardt already has been enjoying them.
I was out at Turnbull on Saturday and I counted 15 Trumpeter Swans on Middle Pine Pond! There were 11 adults and 4 cygnets. Maybe the family from last year was part of it? They sure were vocal and active.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — The ducks that were hatched this spring have been flying for months. But ducks and even geese aren't the largest of all native North American wildfowl.
The trumpeter swans that hatched in mid-June at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge have required the entire summer and several weeks of autumn to grow, muscle up and feather out enough to flap their 15- to 20-pound bodies into the air from a dramatic running-on-top-of-the-water takeoff.
Carlene Hardt has been following the Turnbull trumpeters closely this year and she has captured good photos of their development.
“The cygnets have all their flight feathers and could fly anytime,” Hardt reports this week. On Sunday, one of the cygnets made a very short flight with the parents! The other two have not shown any interest so far but I am sure they will soon.
“The parents leave for about an hour each day. I wonder if they leave them so long to encourage them to learn to fly so they can follow!”
Even the adult turmpeters were flightless during a portion of the summer. They swam closely with their offspring at Middle Pond near the refuge headquarters while they molted their feathers.
Trumpeter swans are typically gray when they hatch. Cygnets steadily lose their gray plumage and molt in pure white feathers by the time they are one year old. The change is not complete in the Turnbull birds.
Cygnets require 110-120 days from the time they hatch to the time they fledge — a moment that appears to be arriving this week at Turnbull.
Once they get the hang of it, these trumpeter swans will be able to fly between 40-80 miles per hour. They are susceptible to collisions with wires, especially when they migrate, but they offer an irresistible reason to crane our necks skyward for a look.
Click “continue reading” to see the difference in the Turnbull cygnets' wing development from the third week of August to the first week of October, as shown in Hardt's photos.
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.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — Should a hunter ever be excused for killing a trumpeter swan he misidentified as a snow goose?
Here are three notable reasons from Rich Myhre of the Everett Herald:
For additional information about identifying swans, go to www.trumpeterswansociety.org.
WILDLIFE – Today’s “Swan song” Outdoors feature in the Sunday Sports section tells the inspiring story of a senior swan at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
I dubbed him “Solo” when I wrote the 2002 column about the widower swan that kept returning to Turnbull without a mate.
But his perseverance paid off in 2009 when he finally bonded with a mate and sired the first hatch of cygnets on the refuge in 22 years. They repeated in 2010 with another brood.
Now it appears certain that Solo is gone. I’ve held off on the story since late January, working with refuge biologist Mike Rule to make certain that Solo didn’t show up as he has for about four decades.
A male trumpeter swan was found dead from lead poisoning nearby on Badger Lake in January. Rule does not think it was Solo, but he’s not sure. Unfortunately, the swan was not aged in the WSU necropsy.
Following is a long series of excerpts from my email correspondence with Rule, detailing the reasoning behind his belief that while Solo is gone, the legacy of his mate and offspring are alive and giving hope for a trumpeter swan future at Turnbull.
WILDLIFE WATCHING — With spring migration in full tilt, it's difficult to overlook the large white swans mixing with other waterfowl in the region's lakes and wetlands.
But it's easy to miss the dintinction between the trumpeter swans and the tundra swans.
This article in the Sibley Birds website has excellent charts and descriptions.
Meantime, area birding enthusiast Charles Swift has this explanation for birders new to the area.
A flock of swans this large locally is most certainly a group of northbound Tundra Swans although it's certainly possible that there could be a few Trumpeters mixed in. Their voices are similar enough to cause confusion although with experience they can be separated.They are also confusing to separate visually particularly as the main differences are related to size and structure rather than plumage. However most Tundra Swans show a variable yellow spot on the upper part of their bills which is usually visible if the swans are seen well and close enough.The bulk of the Trumpeter Swan population that winters in the lower 48 states (which is fairly small) are found well to our west (western WA) or east (eastern Idaho) however good numbers of Tundra Swans that winter in the western U.S. (many in the Klamath Basin and other parts of CA) pass through here on their way north and a variable number even winter locally on the large northern Idaho lakes.
WATERFOWL — Ice-up has ushered the trumpeter swans out of Turnbull National Wildlife refuge to where ever they go during winter. Solo, the geriatric patriarch of his growing trumpeter family, departed the refuge with his mate and this year’s crop of five cygnets during Thanksgiving week, said Mike Rule, refuge biologist. Three yearling swans from last-year’s crop — the first brood at Turnbull in 22 years — also have left. This morning, only a small 20-yard diameter opening remained in the ice on Cheever Lake, one of the swans’ favorite hang-outs, Rule said. The trumpeters require around 50 yards or more of open water for a “runway” in order to take off and get their heavy bodies airborne. “I believe all wetlands on the refuge are now frozen over,” Rule said. Rule said he plans to capture some of the younger swans next year and fix them with colored collars that would encourage birders to report swan sightings. This would help end the mystery of where Solo has been wintering undetected for the 33-46 years that he’s been on the refuge, Rule said. Report swan sightings: “If your readers can be prompted to be on the look out, I would love to get notification of any sightings of swans this winter,” Rule said. Email Mike Rule. Include your contact information, a good location description that includes the name of body of water and nearest road intersection, the number of swans in the group and the presence and number of any juveniles (gray with pink bills).
WATERFOWL — Ice-up has ushered the trumpeter swans out of Turnbull National Wildlife refuge to where ever they go during winter.
Solo, the geriatric patriarch of his growing trumpeter family, departed the refuge with his mate and this year’s crop of five cygnets during Thanksgiving week, said Mike Rule, refuge biologist. Three yearling swans from last-year’s crop — the first brood at Turnbull in 22 years — also have left.
This morning, only a small 20-yard diameter opening remained in the ice on Cheever Lake, one of the swans’ favorite hang-outs, Rule said. The trumpeters require around 50 yards or more of open water for a “runway” in order to take off and get their heavy bodies airborne.
“I believe all wetlands on the refuge are now frozen over,” Rule said.
Rule said he plans to capture some of the younger swans next year and fix them with colored collars that would encourage birders to report swan sightings. This would help end the mystery of where Solo has been wintering undetected for the 33-46 years that he’s been on the refuge, Rule said.
Report swan sightings: “If your readers can be prompted to be on the look out, I would love to get notification of any sightings of swans this winter,” Rule said.
Email Mike Rule. Include your contact information, a good location description that includes the name of body of water and nearest road intersection, the number of swans in the group and the presence and number of any juveniles (gray with pink bills).