21 January 2014

Cooperative Attention to Wintering Trumpeter Swans

An early year arrival of majestic Trumpeter Swans has meant a cooperative effort by many interested in our avian neighbors, and that cared enough to share details of a unique event.

This whole situation started early in January 2014, when local birder Justin Rink was at Carter Lake, viewing the scene from the Nebraska side, and took the time afterwards to post the results of his survey.

Dramatic among the waterfowl was one of the many swans which had an orange-colored marker on one of its wings.

It was a mark that could provide a history for this birds, one of the many among the flock at a bit of open water during the frigid "polar vortex."

Rink's online post indicated: "One orange-tagged adult labeled 387."

Soon thereafter, other bird enthusiasts visited the lake, to see the waterfowl congregation.

Loren and Babs Padelford visited on the 11th, posting online their fowl observations. On the 12th, Robert, a member of the NEBirds forum posted a picture of the tundra swan. Another member Ruthie Stearns, visited from Lincoln, during a time when Omaha birder Betty Grenon was also visiting the lake.

It was the bird with a label that was an especially significant observation.

"Others in this series were released in" southern Minnesota, said Madeleine Linck, of the Trumpeter Swan Society, based in Minnesota. "Generally, if the tag is on the right wing it would have been sexed as a male."

She forwarded my inquiry to Steve Kittelson, a wildlife lake specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Subsequent details convey the special life of this big bird.

"Here is the release information on wing tag #387 in May 2011. I do not have any other information on sightings of #387 after release. A sibling, wing tag #388 was released with #387. #388 was reported with #391 (likely) at Squaw Creek, Missouri in April 2013 (see #3 below)."

Further details from Jon Schneider of Ducks Unlimited, indicate a unique perspective of success associated with this birds previous occurrence, up north in Minnesota.

"A photo 3314 which shows a tundra swan in the foreground and one of our trumpeter swans (387) in the background at Jennie Lake. I never cease to be impressed by continuing progress in habitat restoration that is being accomplished by these collaborative projects with Ducks Unlimited and the Section of Wildlife thanks to LSOHC.
"Pictures of 316-acre Jennie Lake in Douglas County (south of Brandon, east of Alexandria) taken by me on November 1 at the peak of duck migration. Recall Jennie Lake was one of the 8 shallow lakes enhanced by DU in partnership with DNR Wildlife through our initial 2009 OHF appropriation for “shovel ready projects” and was one of the stops on the initial LSOHC tour in 2009 (or 2010?)."

Trumpeter Swans at Jennie Lake, Minnesota. Photograph courtesy of Jon Schneider.

Jennie Lake is about 320 miles from Carter Lake, and is about directly north as the swans fly.

Ongoing Attention

The interest and followup by staff of the Omaha World-Herald are the "final chapter" for this unique saga. A positive response to a story suggestion to Nancy Gaarder, a pictorial effort by supreme photographer Mark Davis who knows what it takes to get grand images of swans at Carter Lake (as he has done once before), and others have come together to present a story of the swans.

This same bird is shown in a previous photograph, and was also among a flock of swans and coots up north.

Birdly Significance

The collaboration which has brought about this recognition is unique in the annals of plains ornithology. So many elements came together through a team effort.

Its a special month for the swans. Only if it would be possible to give #387 a treat, because the swans are oblivious, and that is why it is so important to work on their behalf!

Further Sightings

Date Carter Lake Desoto NWR Schilling WMA
01 Jan 18 - - - -
03 Jan 19 - - - -
05 Jan 16 - - - -
08 Jan - - 12 - -
09 Jan 22 - - - -
11 Jan 11 - - - -
13 Jan 16 - - - -
15 Jan - - - - 22
19 Jan 28 * - - - -
* Greatest count ever based upon records for this locality since 1998.

These are the current sightings of Trumpeter Swans Along the Middle Missouri River during January, 2014

The number of Trumpeter Swans present at Carter Lake this month exceeds any numbers previously reported, especially in 2013. Every count thus far in 2014 have indicated more than ten of these swans, whereas all previous reports were for eight or fewer swans, with 19 of the twenty counts six or less.

Current season observations at Carter Lake by Justin Rink, Ruth Stearns, with other mentions by others, as well as a personal visit on January 5th. Desoto NWR records from refuge staff bird survey. Schilling WMA report by Clem Klaphake, who indicated that swans were present during the Omaha Christmas Bird Count done in latter December. Nearby, at the Cass County sandpit lake, there were 22 swans present, including one with a red neck band.

This is the NEBirds report by Daniel Leger, of Lincoln, for activities Sunday evening at Carter Lake.

"I was at Levi Carter Park in Omaha yesterday, arriving around 4:15. By 5:00 there was a crowd of about 30 folks looking for the swans. Justin Rink and Clem Klaphake were among the throng, most of whom were apparently drawn by an article in the Omaha World Herald.
"Three Trumpeters (the tagged adult and two juveniles) were present when I arrived. Others started coming in around 5:15 but most of them didn't come in until around 5:40. There were over 20 Trumpeters plus the juvenile Tundra. The only downside was that it was getting fairly dark by the time the Tundra appeared.

There were 22 Trumpeters present in the morning and 30 in the afternoon on January 23rd. The ambient temperature in the morning, when the following picture was taken, was -5o with a -24o windchill.

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