Duck, duck, swan! is the best way to describe my bird sightings in the month of March. Early in the month, I spotted many goldeneyes and a gorgeous pair of “Hoodies” (Hooded Mergansers) along the rough and rushing Otonabee River. As the ice retreated over stiller waters, rafts of Buffleheads and Common Mergs appeared. But all through the month, I’ve been watching the swans, and so this post is just for them.
A family of Trumpeter Swans live around the little village where I work. I often spot them in one of two ponds on my way to or from work, and during the day see them flying over. Their call, a sort of honk that sounds a bit like a goose with something caught in its throat, brings us all running outside to see them go over. This month, among my many sightings of them, I had my best view of them yet. Of course, I didn’t have my camera with me that day, but there’s something special about just looking with your own eyes, without the distraction of a camera. The pair of Trumpeters stood in a stubbled field maybe fifty feet from the road and I couldn’t help but be staggered by their size. These swans are big! And though my sightings of these swans have become quite regular, they are special nonetheless.
Trumpeter Swans were extirpated from eastern North America over two centuries ago. In 1933, there were reportedly only 77 breeding in Canada and 50 breeding in the United States. Before their reintroduction, the last Ontario record was of a migrant from the west shot in 1886 on Long Point, Lake Erie. As a result of the Ontario reintroduction program, initiated in 1982, today the province once again has a self-sustaining population, with over 1000 trumpeter swans in the south-central part of the province as of 2009.
Even though this post is called duck, duck, swan, I think these photos need to be titled goose, goose, swan. They do give some good size reference – Canada Geese aren’t small, and these swans positively dwarf them!
“In migration they fly at such immense heights that often the human eye fails to find them, but even then their resonant, discordant trumpetings can be plainly heard. When seen with a glass at that giddy height in the heavens, crossing the sky in their exalted and unswerving flight, sweeping along at a speed exceeding that of the fastest express train, traversing the continent on the wings of the wind, their long lines glistening like silver in the bright sunlight, they present the grandest and most impressive spectacle in bird life to be found on this continent. When at last they find their haven of rest they swing in wide majestic circuits, spying out their landfall, until, their spiral reconnaissance ended and their apprehensions quite allayed, they sink gently down to the grateful waters to rest, drink, bathe and feed at ease.“
E.H. Forbush in A Natural History of American Birds of Eastern and Central North America, 1939
You can read more about the reintroduction of the Trumpeter Swan in Ontario here: