WILDLIFE WATCHING -- In what's become an expected annual event, trumpeter swans beckoned by ice-free waters have returned to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge.
Here's a Valentine's Day (Sunday) report from reader Barbara Morrissey:
Six trumpeter swans arrived 2/14/16 afternoon at about 4 p.m., with their signature call, swooping down on Pine Lake! I was delighted, but saddened to discover 8 folks I met on my way back to the parking lot didn't know what a trumpeter swan was. Well of course, when they have their tails in the air digging for water plants they are not impressive, but maybe someone at Turnbull can put the word out that North America's largest waterfowl can be seen at the refuge, after almost being extirpated years back!
Of course, the refuge and The Spokesman-Review have been touting the Turnbull trumpeter families for years.
My 2011 “Swan song” Outdoors feature in the Sunday Sports section told the inspiring story of Turnbull's senior swan. I had dubbed him “Solo” when I wrote the 2002 column about the widower swan that kept returning to the refuge without a mate.
We've been following the trumpeters since then as they've hatched and raised new families often in clear view of refuge visitors.
Although unconfirmed, the six trumpeters that have returned to the refuge could be the family a pair produce last year, staying at Turnbull until early December (see photos above) before freeze-up forced them to find open water elsewhere.
Here's a Dec. 6, 2015, report for swan enthusiast Carlene Hardt:
Yesterday I went on the Turnbull WinterFest tour. The tour was a couple of hours long and we got to see and learn things about the areas that the general public is not allowed in. We did get to see a few elk running across the road in front of us. Also, I was delighted to see the swan family from the summer. When the swans saw that the van had stopped, they got on the ice to walk away. That was quite the sight to see. It is not so easy to get on the ice and walk on it! We saw the young moose near the end of our drive. What a treat!