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13 trumpeter swans scoping open water at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — For 22 years through 2009, only one trumpeter swan reliably returned to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge each winter or spring — whenever enough open water was exposed by ice thawing at the headquarters-area ponds.

Now the legacy of Solo, the lone male trumpeter that finally found love in 2009, lives on in at least a baker's dozen.

Nesting is likely.  Broods usually hatch around Father's Day.

Here's today's swan observation from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

We watched 13 swans  flying down the creek in front of the office this morning .  They landed on Winslow Pond and Middle Pine.    There were

5 cygnets  and 9 adults. 

Four of the adults are likely the 2 breeding pairs from last year.  The age of  other  5 adults is unknown. They could be any combination of the 9 swans fledged in 2009, 2010, or 2012.   We potentially have four unaccounted for breeding age swans from Solo's 2 broods.  Hopefully we'll get another nesting pair established this year.

This same group was seen for a couple days in mid-January during a short thaw.


Turnbull trumpeters a splashing autumn sight to behold

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. 

Turnbull Refuge hunters could be shut out by shutdown

HUNTING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge officials are hoping Congress sorts out its issues, passes a budget and reverses the government shutdown that went into effect today.

Refuge manager Dan Matiatos told state wildlife officials that if the shutdown continues through the weekend,  hunters with special elk controlled-hunt permits will not be allowed on the refuge. 

Refuge staff pans to contact affected hunters beginning tomorrow, but they're holding off as long as possible to see if things get sorted out today.  Washington muzzleloader elk hunts open Saturday.

Following is a press release just issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding area refuges:

Cheney, WA - The Federal Government will be closed as current funding expired on September 30, 2013.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is very much aware that any lapse in appropriations imposes hardships on those we serve.  Due to this event, the Turnbull and Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex office will be closed to the public.

For programs experiencing a lapse in appropriated funding, only limited functions would continue, such as those necessary to respond to emergencies and to protect human life or property.  While a lapse in appropriations remains in effect, public access to Service properties will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs will be cancelled. All Refuge field trips and school programs, hunts, and public access will be canceled during the shutdown.

Additional information is available at DOI.gov/shutdown and oneINTERIOR.gov, as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, October 1, and the days following.

Turnbull Refuge to host youth for waterfowl hunting

HUNTING – Young hunters can apply for a limited-entry youth waterfowl hunt at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge during Washington’s youth waterfowl hunting weekend at the end of September.

Applications will be accepted Aug.1-15 from licensed hunters under age 16.

Hunters will be allowed to use designated hunting sites, accompanied by an adult.

One application per hunters must be submitted on standard U.S. Postal Service postcards and include the youth’s full name, address and telephone number.

Youths may apply with a youth friend or youth sibling on the same application.

Mail postcards to Refuge Manager, Turnbull NWR, 26010 South Smith Road, Cheney, WA, 99004. 

Drawing results will be posted on the refuge website and letters of confirmation and a youth waterfowl hunt brochure will be mailed to selected youths by the end of August. 

A workshop will be held in partnership with the Spokane Chapter of the Washington Waterfowl Association to select hunting sites, and provide waterfowl identification and hunting tips on the weekend prior to the hunt.

Info: (509) 235-4723.

Photo: Turnbull trumpeters tending to young

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Photographer Carlene Hardt and numerous other wildlife watchers have been watching trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge south of Cheney as they raise their young that hatched last month.

Here's the photo and the note she sent this week after spending some time watching the family of two adults and four cygnets off the paved walking trail near Middle Pine pond.

The rules say I can't go off trail on Cheever so I will not be able to see the second family. 

Isn't it wonderful that there are two Trumpeter pairs and two new families! The cygnets are so adorable and I know they will grow up fast! I watched them imitate their parents eating and preening. 

Two trumpeter swan broods hatch at Turnbull Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Trumpeter swans are doubling the fun Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge this summer with two nesting pairs, each of which has hatched a brood of cygnets in the past week.

Just seven years ago, only one trumpeter called Turnbull home. I named him Solo in a column documenting his lonely two decades of seeking a mate.

In 2009, Solo, by then a geriatric swan age 35-48, attracted a viable mate. He sired the first brood of trumpeters on the refuge since his first mate was killed on her nest by a predator in 1988

Solo disappeared two seasons later, but his mate bonded with another male to produce a brood last year.  This year, it appears that one of the birds produced by the swans also has returned with a mate.

Here's today's report from Mike Rule, refuge wildlife biologist:

Both nesting pairs of trumpeters at Turnbull NWR have hatched.  The pair on Cheever Lake  hatched 3 cygnets  on June 13 and the Middle Pine pair hatched 4 cygnets on June 19 or 20.   The female of the Middle Pine pair is likely Solo's (the really old swan) mate who started the ball rolling again in 2009.

Double the pleasure: 2 trumpeter swan pairs nesting at Turnbull

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.

Trumpeter swans flocking to Turnbull

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.

Turnbull trumpeter swans come and go; another cygnet missing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Life has been more complicated for this year's brood of trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife refuge.

In the three years since Solo the geriatric trumpter finally found a mate after decades of lonesomeness and revived trumpeter family life at the refuge, cygnet survival has been good.

This year, two of five cygnets did not live long enough to fledge.

A third has been missing this week.

Here's the latest report from refuge wildlife biologist Mike Rule:

We have been seeing migrant swans moving through the area mostly Tundras. Several have been on Philleo Lake and a small pond north of Rupp Road just off of Cheney Spangle. Although we do get some trumpeters there are usually less than a dozen.

The seven that (refuge visitors saw last week) may be this year's brood and their parents and sub adults from a previous years brood. I have only been seeing the two cygnets with the adult nesting pair recently. The third cygnet fledged, but it did much later then the first two, and it was straggling when I saw them all together two weeks ago.

We are going to try and get a full count of swans on the refuge this week.


Chip in for field day at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

REFUGES – Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge and Spokane Audubon Society are organizing an annual work party and potluck for Saturday, (Oct. 20) in the ongoing community effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Volunteers will plant hundreds of native saplings to plan before installing fencing to protect the trees from deer, elk and moose browsing.

Work will start at 9 a.m. followed by the potluck at noon.

Meet at Turnbull Refuge headquarters. Drive five miles south of Cheney on Cheney-Plaza Road; turn left on Smith Road and drive two miles to the headquarters.

Groups should register in advance. Info: 235-4723

Nisbet to talk about naturalist David Douglas and Turnbull Refuge

NATURE — Spokane author and naturalist Jack Nisbet will present a program, “David Douglas in the Shrub Steppe,” 7:30 p.m., Aug. 21 at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

Seating is limited. Sign-up in advance with Louise Oleary of the Friends of Turnbull, 235-4531, or looeezoleary@netscape.net.

A $5 donation is suggested.

Among Nisbet’s books is “The Collector,” which details Douglas’ role in documenting flora and fauna in the Columbia Basin around 1826.

Douglas fir? This is the man.

Nisbet is curating a museum exhibit,  David Douglas: A Naturalist at Work, set open Sept. 22 in Spokane at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Take a walk with bats at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge biologists will present a program and an lead evening walk on Wednesday (July 18) to highlight bats, the important critters of the night skies.

“Bats of the World and the Channeled Scablands” starts at 7:30 p.m. at the refuge headquarters south of Cheney.

The talk will be followed by a walk on which special sound detectors will be demonstrated and a few bats may be caught for identification and examination.  

Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants, a sweater or jacket, and bring a flashlight. 

 A donation of $5 to the Friends of Turnbull is suggested.

Info: Louise OLeary 235-4531 or looeezoleary@netscape.net

Clothing-optional hike among National Trails Day outings

HIKING — A Washington nudist park north of Spokane is celebrating National Trails Day June 2 with a clothing optional hike.

Kaniksu Ranch Family Nudist Park near Loon Lake, WA will host the hike Saturday, 1 p.m.-5 p.m. in its 260-acre forest. The park, run by members, welcomes everyone. The group says it's family oriented, although unless the kids are still learning to walk, it doesn't take four hours to hike 260 acres.

“The Inland Northwest has lots of wonderful scenery, but the one unique feature Kaniksu Ranch offers that no one else does is that we can hike safely and legally NAKED in a beautiful, family-friendly environment,” organizers said.

They made no mention of whether the mosquitoes are out.  And we suggest you bring plenty of sunscreen — and dark glasses.

Click “continue reading” for all the dangling details on this event.

MEANTIME, here are a few mainstream Trails Day options for Saturday, June 2 (most require clothing and advance sign-up):

Washington Trails Association is organizing a work party to re-route and maintain trails at Liberty Lake County Park.

Riverside State Park is joining with REI for a family-oriented forest health pruning project in the park.

Elk Creek Falls is the destination for a free two-mile loop hike on the Colville National Forest, led by a Forest Service wildlife biologist.

Butterflies at Turnbull Wildlife Refuge will be the focus of a presentation and field hike led by an expert from the Washington Butterfly Association.

Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are leading a family and dog walk on Saturday and a visit to the Ross Creek Cedars on Sunday.

Butterflies featured in talk, walk at Turnbull

NATURE — A colorful day is in store for people who sign up for the Butterfly Talk and Walk on Saturday, 9 a.m., at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

John Baumann of the Washington Butterfly Association made 19 visits into the refuge backcountry over the course of two summers for an informal survey of the butterfly species living there.  

Baumann will present a short PowerPoint program at the refuge headquarters, followed by a walk to some of the public areas he surveyed so participants can see some of the butterflies that make their home at Turnbull.

Sign up with Louise O’Leary 235-4531 or looeezoleary@netscape.net.

Plan on bringing a sack lunch and plenty of water for an experience that could last through most of the day.

Expert to lead wildflower walk Sunday at Turnbull

NATIVE PLANTS — Late May is prime time for some of the loveliest wildflowers at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Join Northeastern Washington Native Plant Society veteran Sylvia Eberspecher for a leisurely 2-hour walk to learn about some of the wildflowers, trees and shrubs.  

She will point out distinguishing features of common plants that can be confused with each other, and share a few stories of how some plants got their names.

A former Master Gardener and garden center employee, Sylvia will point out some native plants that grow well in urban gardens. Although scientific plant names will be given, you don’t need to know Latin or memorize botany terms to enjoy this trip. Sylvia will bring her favorite identification books and explain what is particularly good about each one, from beginner to advanced.

 Muffins and bottled water are provided. Meet at 10 a.m. by the Turnbull Headquarters buildings.

For starters, here is a plant list.

Pre-register wtih Sylvia (209) 379-5881 or Louise OLeary (509)235-4531 or email  looeezoleery@netscape.net.

Turnbull Refuge offers tours, activities Saturday

NATURE — Turnbull Wildlife Refuge staff and volunteers are leading several tours, walks and activities Saturday to coincide with the annual Jubilee in nearby Cheney.

Pre-register with group leaders for details and meeting places.

  • 8 a.m: A two-hour morning walk around the Pine Lakes area to see what birds can be found in summer.  Leader: Marian Frobe, 328-0621.
  • 8:45 a.m.: Biologist Sandra Rancourt will conduct a pond study for families that identifies aquatic macroinvertebrates and discuss the environmental importance of these creatures.  You will be collecting and identifying these critters.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509) 235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
  • 9:45 – 11:15 a.m.:  tour of the Turnbull National Refuge that you don’t usually get to see.  Refuge biologist, Mike Rule will be your guide sharing some of the history of the refuge, the Native Peoples and pioneers of the area along with the current management of Turnbull.  Call Louise O’Leary, (509)235-4531 or email looeezoleary@netscape.net
Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will have an information booth and kid’s activity table at the main events area at the Safeway parking area in Cheney with many other vendors and activities.  
Cheney Jubilee will provide transportation to and from Turnbull, if necessary.

Join local experts on nature hikes

NATURE —  Get more out of a walk in the woods by joining a group hike with a nature-related group.  Here are two good upcoming options:

Saturday, Bird Walk with Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

Join Marian Frobe, 8 a.m.-noon, for a walk around the Pine Lakes and Headquarters Pond areas to look for and listen to the spring migrants, as well as singing resident birds.  All the birds are in their breeding plumage now.  The local trumpeter swan family might even be around.

Pre-register: 328-0621 to get directions.  Bring water, binoculars and lunch in case you want to extend your stay.

June 4,  Liberty Lake Park walk with Native Plant Society.

Join John McCormick, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., in a walk into a cedar forest with ferns, shade-loving wildflowers, and possibly some interesting mushrooms. Bring lunch and dress for weather and hiking.

Contacts: Email Darcy Varona darcy.varona@gmail.com or James Earl james.earl@ihs.gov.

Volunteers to spruce up Turnbull Refuge Saturday

WILDLIFE REFUGES — Volunteers are encouraged to sign up for the annual community work party Saturday at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.

The event is sponsored by Spokane Audubon Society and The Friends of Turnbull in the continuing effort to restore native riparian habitat to benefit birds and other wildlife species.

Helpers will be planting native saplings and installing fence to protect the trees from deer, elk and moose browsing.

The refuge will also be host to a “potluck” lunch. Discovery School will be providing hamburgers.

Please call in advance to register, (509) 235-4723. Ask for Sandy.

Read on for more details.

Centennial Trail, Turnbull fundraisers this week

CONSERVATION — Two worthy local outdoor causes are having fun feasts and auctions this weekend:

The Centennial Trail's third annual Adventure Auction is Friday at Northern Quest Casino. 

Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge will hold their fourth annual dinner and auction on Sunday, noon-4 p.m., at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. in Spokane.

  • Tickets cost $25 for Friends members and $30 for nonmembers. Price includes a pasta dinner. Info: CraigCorder, 2cbird@hughes.net

The Friends of Turnbull event helps fund Turnbull’s environmental education programs, which have introduced thousands of children to quality nature experiences. 

Friends of Turnbull benefit March 27

CONSERVATION — The 4th annual dinner and auction fundraiser sponsored by the Friends of Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge is set for March 27 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Lincoln Center, 1316 N. Lincoln St. in Spokane.

The events helps fund Turnbull’s environmental education programs, which have introduced thousands of children to quality nature experiences.   

Tickets cost $25 for Friends members and $30 for nonmembers. Price includes a pasta dinner.

Info: CraigCorder, 2cbird@hughes.net

Come home, Solo…

Good morning, Netizens…

One must take a giant step down the evolutionary stairs to kill a trumpeter swan. One of the most-beautiful birds in our country where avian beauty often abounds, there is hardly anything more awe-inspiring than watching these swans floating elegantly on the water, and we were graced, as of last year, with having a mated pair of these swans living in Turnbull Wildlife Sanctuary with four cygnets.

The male swan or cob, affectionately nicknamed “Solo” by various people at Turnbull may have been killed recently on the Colville River and I, for one, would seriously like to find the miscreant responsible.

As cold-hearted as it might seem, murdering a swan is much more than simply the death of one of the heaviest, most beautiful birds in all of nature. Murdering a swan requires a depth of depravity that might portray a sociopath living undiagnosed beneath the surface. It is perhaps a little-known fact that such behavior is closely-associated with other major mental health issues, including the entire gamut of malevolent behavior.

Before you resist the idea, stop and think how you might feel if someone were to brutally kill your favorite pet, leaving it floating on the ice-cold water of the Colville River. Anger, outrage and a sense of betrayal would loom, and with these emotions, the urge to find the killer and bring him/her to justice.

I’ll quickly concede that violence surrounds us at every turn, including the crap we serve to our young on television, which seems to encourage such unthinking, emotionless actions.

I think, come spring, I’ll drive around Turnbull and see if I can locate Solo. Maybe, just maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll return.