September 12, 2010 in Outdoors

First flight made by Solo’s brood at Turnbull

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Carlene Hardt photo

Trumpeter swan cygnets try their wings on Sept. 6, 2010 at Cheever Lake on Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge. It may have been the first time the young birds flew. The cygnets — five in all — are the offspring of a geriatric trumpeters nicknamed Solo and his mate. The young born in May of this year are Solo’s second brood in two years after being a mateless widower for 22 years.
(Full-size photo)

Five trumpeter swan cygnets that hatched at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this spring put their wings to the test this week and lifted their ample bodies off the water for the first flights of their lives.

“I observed the family flying over Winslow Pool this morning,” Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist said Friday after predicting a week earlier that the birds would fledge soon. Swan fan Carlene Hardt said she saw them fly the length of Cheever on Monday.

The cygnets are the offspring of Solo, the geriatric trumpeter who endured 22 years as a widower before finding a new mate last year and siring four cygnets.

Three of last year’s brood survived the winter and returned with Solo and his mate on Jan. 25 as soon as enough ice cleared off Winslow Pool to allow landing and take-off.

But Solo chased away the three yearlings when he and his mate began nesting in April.

“Last year’s cygnets have been spending a lot of time on Swan Pond near the end of the auto tour route,” Rule said. “They try to fly over and join the other swans at Cheever Lake, but Solo usually drives them off and away from his new brood.”

Eventually the old swan will let the swans mingle.

Now that this year’s cygnets have fledged, they’ll be grooming their flying skills on short forays around and off the refuge, he said.

Last year’s cygnets fledged in early October, but Solo arrived at the refuge later than usual last winter because of lingering ice and got a later start at mating.

Last year’s four cygnets hatched on Father’s Day weekend. This year’s five youngsters hatched a month earlier on May 19-20.

All the swans will be forced to leave the refuge when the waters freeze this fall.

Last year they left around Thanksgiving.

“We still don’t know where they go,” Rule said. “But a lot of people know about the swans now, so maybe we’ll get a report and figure that out this winter.”

Coming up: Chelan Ridge Hawk Migration Festival, Sept. 25-26. Info: www.ncwaudubon.org

See story in next Sunday’s Outdoors section.

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