Trumpeter Swans in Yukon's autumn glory. Photograph by Gregory Cook.
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My Swan Story
On Lake Traverse, near Achray, in Algonquin Park, Ontario
21-25 September 2023
The two swans were always together, behaving like a pair. They spent the days swimming along the shorelines, presumably feeding. The shorelines are sandy and shallow a long way out, with several marshy areas, and lots of lake mussells in the shallows. Each day they were in a slightly different area of the southern end of the lake, i.e. they moved around the lake.
The birds only flew when a kayaker approached quickly and too closely. One of them honked quite a bit before they flew off.
That said, they were not shy. We were on the beach one day with three curious retrievers when the pair were just offshore, and both birds approached within about 20m of the shore to check us out. They honked quietly, but stayed nearby for twenty minutes or do before gradually swimming away.
There were very few people on the lake - two boats trolling, a couple of kayakers, and a couple of parties of canoes, including us. No cottages.
I have never seen any swans on this lake before, but am only here once in a while.
"We were fishing in Manitoba near the Ontario border. It is very remote. One of our friends from Ontario was with us.
I heard a honk, and the other two in the boat commented how it must be the trucks on the highway (which is not close).
Then the noise got louder and flew just over the water to the side of us and landed on the shore. It was two Trumpeter Swans.
Visiting from Texas, I had no idea what birds they were, but our Ontario friend identified them for us. I was enamored and watched them at the shore, fly across the lake, and just make their happy honking-trumpet noises while they stayed near us, but not too close. What a sight and an enjoyment to watch!
I’ve read about Trumpeters and recovery efforts for many decades, so I’m pretty sure I saw some just now … for the first time in my life … up close .. while standing at my kitchen sink !!! I was stunned.
I was walking north on our trails, to the hill over looking the marsh & pond. I heard a tremendous booming sound (I never heard a trumpeter swan before) and I thought something was attacking the Canada geese.
When the water came into view I saw 3 large swans flying, diving & splashing in and out of the water -- they were having fun! I viewed them through my binoculars and came back to ID and listen to recordings of Trumpeter Swans - amazing!
I have been watching the Trumpeter Swan tracker all year waiting for her glorious arrival. This week MN-4T has arrived. I have seen her today for the first time since she made it. There was a 10 day gap in tracking info, and I started to get worried. Then she magically appeared on the map on the 28th of November with data going back to the 26th. Now her information has updated and indicates that she arrived on the 23rd. Her last known date in Minnesota/Wisconsin was November 17th. She has quickly returned to some of her favorite lakes and fields/irrigation ditches. I can include some map screenshots as well as some fuzzy photos of her in her album later this week. Today I found her at 4 p.m. on North Lake in Gobles, Michigan. She was not alone. She was with another adult Trumpeter swan and 2 cygnets. I am so excited. I can't wait to update you again when I see her. Hopefully, I can snag better pictures next time. She has definitely stolen my heart.
December 22, 2021: Today we took our 2 1/2 yr old grandson Lucas to see the Trumpeter Swans in a lake on Hiram Rd just east of Heber Springs, AR. He loved it. He threw corn in the water and laughed as the swans turned upside down into the water. He mimicked their sounds. It was a beautiful sunny 54 degree day. We made special memories with him and the beautiful Swans.
We have been visiting them for about 17 years. They usually are in this place in AR from Thanksgiving until Valentine’s Day. We’ve come at least every year to see them. They are majestic and each year brings more and more that started with a couple of them 1990-1991. Fortunately for us it is only 30 min from our home.
Note from the Trumpeter Swan Society: The photo collage includes female swan, 9L who received her GPS tracking collar on December 20, 2021 as part of the largest midwest swan tracking study ever done.
ARKANSAS: Feb. 3, 2021. Trumpeter Watch.
The weather was clear with full sun and a high of 52 degrees Fahrenheit. This was an unnamed lake about 4 miles east of Heber Springs, AR. This is a known location to see Trumpeter Swans. The location is; Latitude 35.481995, Longitude -91.961716.
Birds that were closer to us were feeding while some were preening themselves. Because of the large number of birds, there was some social activity with some birds chasing others that got too close.
There were 8-10 people observing the birds all afternoon.
As the sun got closer to the horizon, groups of birds would start calling. It was amazing to hear a large group of them calling. As the day changed to dusk, groups of swans would swim to the far end of the lake where they would start honking before finally taking off. A number of squadrons of birds took off until it was dark. It was too dark for photos but we did get a camera video of one group taking off from the water.
Although it was a 4 hr. trip to get home, it was a real treat to see those majestic birds taking off in flight.
WASHINGTON: "While many travel Cultus Bay Road daily, most fail to notice the majestic white bird cruising the shallows of the far shore of the wetlands, feeding on grasses and water plants, preening or shaking water off his six-foot wingspan. A solitary Trumpeter Swan has made this home since fall of 2019." Read more...
My Trumpeter Watch Swan Story from Ontario
ONTARIO: The swans were in the marsh feeding with their young. We were very quiet and had our dog with us but we were behind some cover about 4ft high and had trees between us too. The parents were very calm and got within 8-10ft from us while feeding with their young. They were bobbing up and down in the water- it looked like they were trying to stir up food for their young. They were also putting their heads under water to pull up grass. We watched them for about 15 minutes- very neat to see!
We were watching them from afar once we crossed a bridge and loud teenagers came along the same path. The parents took their young more towards the center of the marsh and were on more alert (stopped feeding) but they were still quite calm (no vocalizing). Last year we saw a swan on a nest out in the same marsh up river to the North West, but it was too far to get a picture of last year or to ID what kind of swan it was.
MINNESOTA: A front row seat watching Trumpeter Swans become parents. This delightful article shares what it is like to watch a Trumpeter Swan pair arrive in early spring, build a nest, and successfully hatch cygnets. Read more...
NEBRASKA: A beautiful 10 minute film and photos and essay showcase the story of Nebraska Sandhill's trumpeter swans. Not to be missed. Mike Forsberg presented portions of this at the 25th Swan Conference in Alton, Illinois in November 2019.
MINNESOTA: "...The other evening they came flying over the hill, gliding low over the pond ice and snow and splashed into the open creek, trumpeted some and swam upstream out of sight. I knew it...in a few minutes they were bugling nonstop as they came around the bend, wings splashing, and were airborne just as they got to the ice edge. They flew low, circled the pond as they slowly gained altitude to clear the surrounding hills. They’re showing off, I know they are!" Read more...
WASHINGTON: "Among us in the San Juan Islands on our very own Orcas, we have a great treasure. We usually see this treasure during the winter. It is a handsome, black and white, five-foot-long bird called the trumpeter swan, otherwise known as cygnus buccinator. Trumpeter swans are superlative birds. This story, except for the introduction, is told by a cygnet, a baby swan in his trumpeter swan family." Read the story...
My Swan Story by Susan F.
OKLAHOMA: I'm in Oklahoma and my story is short. I was getting out of my car when I heard the craziest noise. Like a clown car coming at me from the air. I looked up to see 2 huge white birds shouting at each other as they flew. It takes a lot to amaze me, but this did. It was great to see my first Trumpeters.
My Swan Story by Christy B.
MINNESOTA: Taken from a Trumpeter Watch report, November 21, 2019
8:25 am cloudy with light snow showers 35 degrees F
Location - on the Mississippi river just east of Gray Cloud Island on the north side of the river/the Cottage Grove bank - in a area that is protected by several sandbars, about mile 820. The water is generally shallow in this area around the sandbars. I could very clearly see these beauties from the sunroom of our home facing the river. I did view them for several minutes with binoculars and without. The 5 (2 adults and 3 juveniles) were just gently swimming down river, dipping in the water and flapping their wings - what a thrilling sighting!!
This is not the first sighting of Trumpeter swans here but it has been several years since I have seen them. I have not seen a family of these lovely swans before at this location.
My Swan Story by Tammie S.
We live north of Fergus Falls, MN. We have lived here almost 15 years and the swans periodically show up from time to time. This year we had a group of about 15-20 about the time the ice started coming off the pond. They would come and go and eventually just these two stayed. I don't think we've ever had a pair of swans that nested that I can remember.
They are very curious. If they see us in the yard or out walking along the gravel road, they will actually swim along the shoreline and "talk" to us. This photo was taken from the dock we have. I spotted the swans across the pond and noticed they were headed in our direction. I grabbed my camera & headed to sit on the edge of the dock, hoping to get a few decent photos. Little did I know that they would swim within 10 feet of me and hang out. They stayed close, swimming, "talking", fixing feathers, etc for almost an hour. It was incredible! And I am blessed that I got to enjoy their company.
My Swan Story by Carlene H.
TURNBULL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, WASHINGTON
When was the last time you saw a dirty swan?
On March 22nd at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to watch this Trumpeter swan diving underwater and then doing barrel rolls at the surface of the water. Swans are so buoyant I am amazed that most of their body can be underwater!
When it popped up out of the water it repeatedly slapped its wings on the water for lots of splashes. I couldn’t help but think that not only was it getting a good bath but it was having fun doing it!
My Swan Story by Carlene H.
TURNBULL NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, WASHINGTON
After it warmed up from a cold, icy winter, I decided to go out to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge to see if migration was happening. To my delight, I counted 15 swans coming through that day. There was a family of 6 Trumpeters that were bathing in the water and then taking turns coming up on a small patch of ice to finish preening.
I captured this image of an adult swan looking right at my camera, which I thought was humorous! At the same time its cygnet was stretching its mottled tan and white wings. Soon the cygnet will be pure white! What a special time to watch all the swan activity that day!
My Swan Story by Carlene H.
My husband and I went out to Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge in Cheney, Washington on Saturday February 2nd because it was a warm 40 degrees and in the next few days we were going to be in the deep freeze! As soon as we walked up the trail, we heard the powerful flapping of wings overhead and then looked up and saw a pair of Trumpeter swans flying in and landing near us on Middle Pine Lake. They preened a little bit and then swam around to eat. Parts of the lake were frozen but most of it was not. There were times when the sky was blue and it made you forget it is winter! I stood still for awhile and they got very close. It was nice to see such loveliness in winter.
My Swan Story by David W.
I began working for Hennepin County Park Reserve District (HCPRD) in February, 1966. During the 1960's and early 1970's I was involved in the project to re-introduce the Trumpeter Swans to Minnesota. They had been gone from our state for about 100 years.
We transported about 20 adult swans from Red Rock Lakes in the Centennial Valley in Montana. The natural habitat was a large grassy wetland, accessible by air boat. The birds were transported in cages large enough for them to walk around in comfortably. The trip home was successful and uneventful.
We located the birds to an enclosed area on the edge of a small lake in Carver Park. For the next few years I fed the swans seven days a week. During periods of open water they were fed aquatic vegetation. During freeze up they received small grains, alfalfa pellets and loose alfalfa. We kept a small area of open water for the swans.
It was exciting to work with these amazing birds! The fenced refuge area was about 80-100 acres. It proved to be large enough for a few nest areas.
About the third year we had five cygnets hatched in the refuge. Three cygnets survived (see original watercolor painting by Sherm Pehrson). The flock was free flying and that allowed some pairs to nest outside the refuge area.
The project was expanded to include wildlife specialists to better supervise overall management.
The Trumpeter Swan Society was started by HCPRD and has been a vital part of its overall success. I feel fortunate to have been a small part of the restoration project. It's a good feeling to see small flocks of Trumpeter Swans and realize I was part of this. I never tire of hearing their Trumpeting call!
Swans Among Us
Swans are sleeping by the shore,
Plumes folded misty white;
They awaken, just before
Jeweled sun sheds wintry light.
They trumpet brass and gold,
The pale morning rings;
Fog heaves in the cold,
The river snaps and sings.
The swans are wary, black eyes
Keeping watch the silvery day;
With beating wings they rise
Over glittering waters away.
Theirs the green countryside,
Shining lake, russet hill;
The swan scorns to hide
Behind clouds low and chill.
White wings at swanfall,
In scarlet evening the swans return;
They jostle, settle and call,
Soon white stars will burn.
Close among reeds the nest,
And vigils that leave no trace;
Stick-feathered cygnets at the breast
Will remember this place.
~ Cameron La Follette
My Swan Story by Tom T.
One of our earliest memories of Idaho came in 1982 while moving to Pocatello from North Dakota. It was a foggy, snowy mid-November day when we crossed the Osborne bridge at Harriman State Park for the first time and saw at least 50 swans swimming and flying. Very nice memory for each of us.
My Swan Story - by Richard R.
I'm an old-school retired Alaska Department of Fish & Game fisheries biologist and I've lived here in the Bristol Bay, Alaska area for almost 50 years.
Yesterday, November 29, 2018, I visited a local site we call Lake Camp that is inside Katmai National Park. It is about 12 miles from King Salmon, Alaska & I can drive there via a gravel access road. It lies about a half-mile down the Naknek River from the outlet of Naknek Lake...Alaska's 4th largest freshwater lake. When I arrived at Lake Camp I saw 33 Trumpeter Swans there...11 adults, & 22 cygnets. I believe they represented 5 family groups
Those Trumpeter Swans that over-winter here don't appear to guide their cygnets out of the local area...we see them here in the fall, winter, and in small cohort groups after the adults abandon them the next April-May period.
About the only way I can lean towards identifying individual family cohorts during the late summer through about mid April is by how many cygnets they are shepherding around. After mid-April they abandon these new sub-adults and go off to raise a new set...and the somewhat lost acting young birds seem to group up together and swim around feeding and exploring together until they also disappear from our local river as boat traffic increases and summer vegetation begins to obscure local viewing opportunities.
I hardly ever see them here between mid-June & mid-September...so they are probably scouting future partners and future nesting sites during that time...while their parents are bringing off a new clutch of young.
My Swan Story - Ann N.
My husband and I moved to our lake home here in Minnesota almost 4 years ago. The natural beauty of lake country has been a tremendous gift to all our family. Many times as I have looked out over the pine-rimmed lake at sunset, I have humbly realized that somehow we have managed to secure our own piece of heaven here on Earth. And the wildlife who are the original citizens of the wooded hills and lakes all around us, have amused and befriended us through the seasons. The deer appear often moving silently through the trees, sometimes pausing to watch as we walk the road through the woods. Groups of wild turkeys saunter across the landscape occasionally. And bald eagles glide above the treetops, scanning the shallows of the lake for fish, or riding on the breezes above the shimmering waters.
All of the creatures here catch my attention, but it is the Trumpeter Swans that have completely captured my heart! It is quite striking to me that such a very large powerful bird can demonstrate such fluid grace and mystical beauty. I remember hearing in years past worrisome reports that these amazing birds had reached very low numbers. So it was exciting indeed when we realized that the beautiful snowy white swans that we were seeing on the ponds and sloughs near our new home were Trumpeter Swans.
Thankfully, the Trumpeter Swans are here much of the year. There is a family of swans that we have been watching since we moved to the area; we almost feel that they are our neighbors! We have been watching them nesting each summer on a large slough about a mile down the road from our home. The swans must not mind the slow movement of the occasional cars passing by, as they have returned to nest there each summer since we have lived here. We have enjoyed very much that as we leave to go to work or run errands, that we can often see the swans resting out on the water or preening themselves on the shoreline. We can see their nest on the shore, and when eggs are apparently laid, the adults become very faithful indeed and are sitting on that nest almost constantly. We have watched impatiently during the nesting period, and then are finally rewarded in later summer to witness the little cygnets out on the water with their proud parents. This lovely family has truly been a delight to watch!!
It is now almost December and the cold weather is upon us here in Minnesota. The slough down the road froze over a few weeks ago, while the larger lake by our home still remained open. About the time that the slough froze hard, we started to see 2 adult swans with 2 good sized cygnets down at the shoreline in front of our home. We were excited to see them up so close! We watched them closely on several occasions with our sighting scope, and referred to identification information online to determine specifically what kind of swans they were. We were quickly able to positively ID the swans as Trumpeters, which we had already suspected.
We have had pretty cold weather recently, and our lake is now frozen over as well. The deep cold of winter is taking a firmer grip on the wooded hills, encasing the waters in crystalline sheets of ice. So our lovely swans have moved on. We have noticed that there is a river that passes through the nearby town of Park Rapids that does not completely freeze over each winter. I have been told that the area stays open because there is a spring feeding the river, preventing freeze in the close vicinity. And in the brisk cold of winter, we have seen numerous geese and swans that seem to be fine with wintering in that rather crowded and limited area of open water. So we will be watching again this winter, hoping to see some of our swans in that popular little bay. These amazingly lovely birds are a blessing to so many all through the year!!
The return of sizable numbers of Trumpeter Swans in recent years to Minnesota and indeed to the larger United States, has portrayed the successful rescue of a true treasure among our local wildlife. We offer our sincere thanks for the important work of The Trumpeter Swan Society in helping monitor and support the welfare of these beautiful birds!
My Swan Story - by Rick M.
On a Christmas afternoon some years ago, six Salt Lake City friends decided, on the spur of the moment, to drive up to Jackson Hole for an impromptu cross-country ski tour. The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we geared up and headed to the Oxbow Bend area. The temperature was minus 23 F, but we were prepared for it. As so often happens when it gets that cold in Grand Teton, most of the landscape was shrouded in a dense layer of fog, but we could discern blue skies above. As the fog began to lift, the Tetons—those most perfect mountains that we were all anticipating the first sight of—began to reveal themselves to the west; Oh, glorious day! But the fog still lay heavy along the Snake River. The air was perfectly calm, the only sound coming from our every step and glide on the hoar-frosted snow.
Timing is everything… We were just getting used to the cold when the first sun began to shine through the fog. The scene was so stunning we all seemed to stop in our tracks at once… just in time to hear the faint trumpeting of swans coming our way… getting louder. As we stood listening, waiting, hoping, eight adult trumpeter swans rose through the breaking mists into the sunlight, flying low over the river, right in front of us, seemingly unaware of our presence. Besides their trumpeting, the only sound was the beat of their wings. Eight grand symbols of all that is pure and perfect, rising into daylight in a perfect place. It was so beautiful it made me weep. And when I looked to my friends, every one of their reactions was the same. We just smiled silently at one another, grateful to share such a moment… an extra special little Christmas gift.