04 February 2013

Trio of Trumpeter Swans Spending Winter Together

For the past month or so as known, a trio of Trumpeter Swans have been spending their time in the metro Omaha area, most notably at Carter Lake, but also at Lake Manawa, over in Iowa. Both places are associated with the mighty Missouri River.

The most recent sighting was on "Super Bird Sunday," as these most magnificent of waterfowl sat on the ice of Carter Lake, as the highlight of subtle activities on a late-winter afternoon. There were lots of other fowls, but there were no flags on the viewing field of the lake. The biggest fans of the scene were myriads of Canada Goose, as they honked and flew about, expressing their pleasure of nature's game.

Lots of ducks were also making moves atop the waters. Mallards were on the edge of the field of ice on the waters.

Plays were underway to get an advantage over an opponent also striving for a winning situation in getting something to eat. It is the aquatic vegetation which makes the lake water a place to stay, especially coontail, Ceratophyllum demersum, in scientific parlance.

American Coot being chased by a hungry goose. January 26, 2013.

On a recent visit, the big geese were attentive to every move by the coots. If the smaller black birds dove underwater and came up with some greenery, they were pursued in an attempt to wrest it away. The coots had to use their best moves to avoid a loss. Nothing could be done if a takedown, or any other sort of birdly penalty occurred. Any loss meant another attempt at a gain.

The primary vantage point, on February 3rd, was the restricted area on the north side of the care-taker residence, near the exclusive sky- boxes, specially installed for Purple Martins. Another observer, big-beard Floyd, had a vantage point on the north side of the pavilion on the south side of the house.

Bird watchers at Levi Carter Park. February 3, 2013.

Why this trio of Trumpeter Swans is acting like a team with common goals, is not known? They are obviously doing well together, based upon numerous scouting reports.

They were together on Sunday, January 27th at Lake Manawa, south of Council Bluffs. The Sunday previous, on the 20th, a same trio was present at Carter Lake, after having already been caught in swimming action by a photograph by Mark Davis, a photojournalist and outdoor writer for the Omaha World-Herald.

The initial report of three swans at Carter Lake, was January 2nd, with subsequent action seen and reported. Each move is especially significant since this species was last reported at this altered oxbow lake of the Missouri River in February 2003. And before that, the end of January 1999.

For some reason, the three beautiful swans are spending weeks of this winter as a team, as indicated by local birders of various ilk. There are no neck-collars or other "things" associated with any particular colors, which might indicate their origins, or nothing to convey their home fields.

A couple of birders were looking at the gathering, making judgements as to the species, and estimating numbers present. It was a situation of shared interests, but the local birder did not show any sort of courtesy to another local birder, being preferential to another guy, new person on the scene, and who took the time to drive from Lincoln to see what birds were around. He made the right decision to visit Carter Lake.

It was simply, and most obviously another day to enjoy the bird activity. They never fail to please since their behavior is given without regard to demands or expectations. This attitude of the fowl an essential perspective which has created an interest, and then action dedicated to their interests and conservation.

By the way, the weather was fine, with predominant blue skies, except for a surprising number of contrails marring the perspective overhead, where two Bald Eagles soared. Song birds were missing in action.