odd swan out

Yesterday, on our way home from Foley Mountain (more notes on that to follow sometime soon), we noticed three swans on the northwest side of Bellamy Lake. We stopped to watch and photograph them as I usually make note of all of our Trumpeter Swan sightings in this region. Each winter, a small group of them usually spends some time in the open water around Narrows Lock at Big Rideau Lake, although we’ve also seen them in the open water by the locks at Opinicon Lake, and in open water around the dam at Westport. This was the first time for us to see them in Bellamy Lake which is a little south of Toledo (Ontario, that is).

The swans are of particular interest as there are ongoing attempts to reintroduce Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator), in eastern Canada. Trumpeter Swans were extirpated from eastern Ontario over 200 years ago. Projects based at Wye Marsh and the Mac Johnson Wildlife Area have had success and there is now a growing population of birds nesting throughout Ontario.

Yesterday’s sighting was interesting on account of the new location, but also the behaviour of the swans. Two swans swam together at quite a distance offshore, while a third swam in shallower water near shore. Just after we stopped to watch, the lone swan began to swim toward the pair. It didn’t look quite right for a Trumpeter as its neck seemed more arched than is normally seen, and its back looked a little odd-shaped. However, the swans were at such a distance that I didn’t give that so much thought at the time. When the lone swan approached the pair, one of them became somewhat hostile and seemed to be attempting to drive it away. It approached a couple of more times before drifting off on its own. I shot several photos, but couldn’t see them that well on the camera LCD. Once home, when I put the shots up on the computer, I could easily see that the “lone swan” was actually a Mute Swan – which is explains why its neck and the shape of its back didn’t seem quite right when it was on the move across the lake. Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) are the introduced European species that are usually seen around parks, but there are now feral populations in many areas of eastern Canada.

I’ve been photographing Trumpeter Swans for awhile now. Some of my photos are in this gallery on my Pbase photo site.

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12 Responses to “odd swan out”

  1. Wayne Says:

    Oh, and here I was thinking – mutations at Christmas, what fun!

  2. burning silo Says:

    Wayne – Yes! Nothing quite like a mutant swan! Just call it the “Ugly Duckling Syndrome”.

  3. robin andrea Says:

    Nice shot of the three of them. I hope the Mute Swan finds some friends.

  4. burning silo Says:

    robin – It may well find more of its kind if it moves on a little south and closer to one of the cities which is where these swans seem to gather. I think this is the first Mute swan I’ve seen in a less populated area. I’m not sure how it will do if it tries to overwinter on the lake or in the surrounding area. I suspect Mutes aren’t as cold tolerant as the Trumpeter Swans. I’ll keep watching for more of these in winter now.

  5. Cathy Says:

    Your gallery photos are lovely. Can’t help but anthropomorphize the mute swan’s needs. Hope it finds its fellows.

  6. LauraH Says:

    I hope it doesn’t find friends! They are nasty aggressive birds that will drive others away. Beautiful, but mean.

  7. burning silo Says:

    Cathy – As Laura has mentioned in the next comment, feral Mute Swans are actually a problem, so it’s better if they don’t breed – although (unfortunately), they seem to be quite successful.
    Laura – Yes, indeed, they are aggressive and thanks for pointing that out. I should have quoted a passage from the link on Mute swans that I posted in this piece:

    Several aspects of their ecology suggest that Mute Swans could be a particularly serious problem. Mute Swans are extremely aggressive and occupy and defend large parcels (up to 6ha) of wetland habitat during nesting, brood rearing and foraging (Birkhead and Perrins 1986, Ciaranca 19990, Ciaranca et al. 1997). Not only can they attack and displace native waterfowl from breeding and staging habitats (Willey 1968b, Reese 1975, Ciaranca 1990, Ciaranca et al. 1997), they have also been reported to kill adult and juvenile ducks, geese and other wetland dependant birds (Willey 1968b, J. Johnson, personal observation). They have also been reported to cause nest abandonment in Least Terns (Sterna albifrons), Black Skimmers (Rynchops niger), Forster’s Terns (Sterna forsteri) and Common Terns (Sterna hirundo) (Ciaranca et al. 1997).

  8. LauraH Says:

    People encourage them here on inland ponds, because they are so beautiful, but most don’t know any better.

    The quote you posted was interesting – I’m curious if there are similar problems here with Mute Swans disrupting nesting of terns – the habitat seems entirely different to me. I recently read an article about Cattle Egrets and their effects on nesting terns and skimmers – similar problems – but they’re marsh or beach nesting birds (here in NJ at least).

  9. burning silo Says:

    Laura – I just looked for more info on Mute swans and terns and found this from about 3/4 of the way down this webpage;

    Mute swans not only attack and displace native waterfowl from breeding, staging, and wintering areas (Willey, Reese 1975, Ciaranca 1990, Ciaranca et al. 1997), they have also been known to kill intruding birds of other species and their young (Stone and Masters 1970, Reese 1980, Kania and Smith 1986). One of the more dramatic instances in which mute swans have displaced native species was documented in Dorchester County, Maryland, where an annual molt-gathering of up to 600 mute swans caused repeated reproductive failures in, and ultimately the abandonment of, the largest colony of least terns in the State (accounting for 49 percent of the Statewide population) and one of only two known colonies of black skimmers in the Maryland portion of the Bay (Therres and Brinker 2003). Both of these species are listed as threatened by the State of Maryland.

  10. LauraH Says:

    Thanks for the additional info.

    If swans are like Canada Geese (who I think molt right after breeding) – I guess it accounts for what they’re doing in the places where shorebirds are nesting.

    Shorebirds have such a difficult time and so many other nest predators – such a shame to add to their difficulties.

  11. Larry McNamee Says:

    Hi Bev,
    There back on Bellamy Lake all this spring that is 2007!

    I have seen two several times and at times they look like they could be interested in nesting in back bay.

    I grew up on lake and have a cottage there now. I currently live in Ottawa region but are at lake most weekends from early spring to late November.

    Thus as outdoors person I am very familiar and vilegent of the wildlife and variety of birds who visit. This spring we had lesser scaup, greater scaup, golden eye feeding and resting on the lake for weeks. The Lake is shallow and opens early most springs.

    Bev, I have pictures of these two birds from last fall as well and as an update they seem to be staying longer this year.


  12. bev Says:

    Hi Larry – Good to hear that the Trumpeter Swans are at Bellamy Lake again this year. It seems that the Trumpeters are slowly increasing in numbers and finding new places to nest. Is the Mute Swan there as well this year? I was quite surprised to see that one with the Trumpeters last autumn. Interesting that they stayed at the lake longer this year. I usually see them in the bit of open water around Narrows Lock at Big Rideau Lake in winter. I’ve also seen them at Chaffeys Locks in winter, and at the small locks and bridge by Sand Lake right in the village of Westport. Thanks for dropping by my blog and leaving an update on the swans. Please do so any time!