where are the swans?

Yesterday, while in the Westport area, Don and I stopped to check on the Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) that often feed in a small reach of open water below the dam in the causeway at Narrows Locks on Big Rideau Lake. Usually, we find 2 or 3 adults and a couple of juveniles swimming and feeding together, but yesterday we just found a single swan in the company of a few Mallard ducks. That’s the first time that we’ve found a lone swan at that location. We’ll have to check back on the swans on our next pass through that area to see if others arrive.

The lone swan was first seen feeding at the downstream end of the reach. However, after noticing that we were parked on the causeway, it swam upstream. In the past, we’ve found small heaps of seeds sprinkled on the ice next to the causeway. No doubt, the swan approached to see if I might be the usual benefactor.

After finding that I had nothing to offer, the swan swam into the nearby shallows and stood while grooming itself. I shot several photos (click on images to see larger views), and also a short movie clip of the swan as it vigorously worked on its feathers. The sound of rushing water is from the spillway under the dam where I was standing. I should mention that the temperature was hovering around 0 F. yesterday when I shot these photos and movie clips. That feels *very* cold when you’re standing on a low causeway at the center of a huge frozen lake with frigid water rushing just a few feet from your vantage point. It gives you a great appreciation for the toughness of these and other water birds that overwinter in our region.

Last December, I wrote about another Trumpeter Swan sighting on a nearby lake. If interested, check out that post to learn more about reintroduction efforts for the Trumpeter Swan in eastern Canada.

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19 Responses to “where are the swans?”

  1. Peter Says:

    It was *coooold* yesterday, you’re brave :-) I skipped my morning hike as it was around -25C when I drove my wife to work in the AM.

    I assume the water does not freeze over at that location?

  2. robin andrea Says:

    What a gorgeous swan. I hope the others arrive so it’s not lonely there. I am so surprised by how cold it is there. We’re expecting a large rainstorm here, but the temps are in the high 50sF. Rather balmy, actually. I like how blue the water is in your photos. Must have been quite a clear sky day.

  3. bev Says:

    Peter – Yes, it sure was cold! Most of the water on the lake is frozen and snow-covered, but there’s a reach of ice that is perhaps 30 meters wide by about 500 meters long that stays open on the downstream side of the dam.

    robin – Trumpeters are really beautiful birds. I love watching them swim as they’re a bit different than Mute swans. Something about them reminds me of an icebreaker making its way through the cold winter waters. You’re right, it was a clear sky day here – the sunlight so bright that I was sorry I’d left my sunglasses at home!

  4. John Says:

    That is a fine bird and you are indeed brave to weather those temperatures! We saw some swans in south Texas, near the Gulf Coast, just last week. I suspect they were not wild ones, though, as they looked to comfortably well-fed in their pond near a nursing home.

  5. Jennifer Says:

    These are gorgeous photos. It may have been cold, but the sun looks warm. Pretty day!

  6. am Says:

    Love your swan photos.

    See also Loren’s photos of tundra swans in Western Washington.


  7. bev Says:

    John – Actually, much as it was cold, it wasn’t as cold as some of our past visits. The swans you saw around the nursing home may have been Mute Swans. A lot of people do keep them as ornamental birds. Unfortunately, they often turn feral and end up displacing wild birds from their habitat as they can be quite territorial.

    Jennifer – Thanks! Indeed, the sun was warm and the sky very clear and blue.

    Am – Thanks for posting the link to Loren’s tundra swan photos. They’re beautiful.

  8. bud netune Says:

    Beautiful pictures of the trumpeter swan. I have several video clips of a baby swan with its mother on youtube. Type in MOSWAN to see. This is the 3 year that a pair of wild trumpeter swans have visited our north Missouri farm.

  9. pohanginapete Says:

    I particularly like the second photo, Bev. That strong diagonal, with the perfectly positioned swan and its reflection; the shadow of its head on the plumage; the ice on the point of change. You’ve done well to retain detail in the black of its beak without blowing out the highlights on the white feathers, too — an excellent exposure, and an excellent photo all round. Well done.

    I remember whooper swans at Talmin Lake in Mongolia in ’04; the touch of yellow on the bills, the feeling of being remote from the modern world. Swans of any sort often evoke powerful feelings like that for me. A kind of strangeness, as if they’re part of another world.

  10. bev Says:

    bud – Thanks, and also thanks for posting in info about your trumper swan movie clips on youtube. I especially liked this one,

    Pete – Thanks for the feedback on that photo. You’re quite right about the exposure and retaining detail without blowing out the highlights. The conditions on that day and at that site were difficult — and always seem to be as the huge expanse of ice and snow is so very reflective. The light levls are often almost blinding on even a moderately sunny day.
    Interesting about the feelings that you get around swans. I’ve found that too. They don’t really seem like other birds… almost seem to have a presence that is outside of that world.

  11. Dave Says:

    Those are spectacular birds. I once had a community I worked for that had (mute?) swans that would nest each year in their lake. They were semi-tame, and would sometimes approach if they thought you had food!

  12. celeste Says:

    Hi Bev! ha, I’ll say I think the second pic is the “best” too–because of the interesting textures of the ice in the water, and the swan is looking at it(?), contemplative-ly. But then my favorite is the yoga neck in the wing-pit of the third pic, what pretty curves swan necks have!

  13. island rambles Says:

    We have the trumpeters and the mutes here…the mutes stay in the pond all year…one trumpeter resides all year as he is lazy, the other trumpeters have arrived to eat carrots in the flooded fields.. I love your site and photos.

  14. Cathy Says:

    Gorgeous. You’ve found beauty amidst the ice. I’ve not been out in nature much this winter, so the clip of such a beautiful bird, the light, the sounds of water . . lovely.

    Oh! And the frost spider webs! Incredible. So fortuitous that you found and captured them before they disappeared.

  15. Charlene Ware-Nebraska Says:

    Oh my gosh!! I am so excited! I woke up today to my cat going crazy and when I went to let my dog outside I noticed a butterfly in the window above the front door!!!

    I’m in Nebraska and its been sub-zero temps outside; its january!!! I am just exhstatic about this…is this a good sign?? What does it mean?? I wanna keep it! How do I care for it??

    Sorry, just very excited! I saw your site and want to know if you can help my try and keep it alive!! Please let me know!! I am going to post pics of it on my myspace profile listed above! Thanks, Char

  16. Dave Says:

    What? No Groundhog Day photos?? :)

  17. Clare Says:

    Where have you gone Bev??

  18. robin andrea Says:

    I just came by to see if you had a new post up. I miss your photographs and commentary. We see wildlife and always think of you.

  19. carol Says:

    i was looking for a picture of a tundra swan near ice. i finally found it! thank you so much!

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