another visit with the swans

Last week, we paid another visit to the Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) that often hang out in the reach of open water below the dam in the causeway at Narrows Locks near Westport, Ontario. We’ve been visiting them a few times each winter for the past 3 or 4 years. In fact, we may even stop by to see if they’re around this morning as we’ll be passing through the area on our way to Kingston today.

Anyhow, that day (March 16th), I shot a kind of fun movie clip of the swans doing just what they’re known for — trumpeting. I had just finished shooting a little movie clip of a single swan swimming across the open water. We thought there was just the one swan around, but then two more swans came around a point of land, flying low, and landed beside the lone swan. The lone swan raised its wings out of the water, perhaps in some gesture signifying excitement, a welcome, or maybe even hostility (I’m guessing it was the swan version of a welcome). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture any of this as my camera was busy saving the previous movie clip of the single swan swimming (wouldn’t ya know it!!). However, after the swans landed, I did manage to shoot this clip. Be sure to turn up your sound as the swans do some honking, interrupted by the occasional “trumpet” for which they’re named. I also shot another clip of them feeding in the shallow water beside the dam — they swam over to where I was standing and dabbled around in the water under the ledge of snow along the shore. I’ve left the sound track on the clip — a lot of annoying wind sound — because it might give you some idea of how windy and cold it is at this spot (VERY!!). It’s almost unbearably cold — my hands and face start to feel quick-frozen after just a couple of minutes.

If we see anything of interest while out and about today, I’ll be sure to take a few photos and post them soon.

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11 Responses to “another visit with the swans”

  1. Cathy Wilson Says:

    Bev, That clip is so beautiful. I’m glad you mentioned ‘sound up’. I had the mute button on a surely wouldn’t want to miss their voices.

    (How the heck do you hold the camera so steadily in the cold and wind and excitement?)

  2. robin andrea Says:

    Their sound is so grand and beautiful. It made me happy to hear it, to hear their exuberance. What a treat, bev. Yes, how do you keep the camera that steady when the wind is blowing like that, and your hands are cold? Well done!

  3. Wayne Says:

    Bev – it definitely sounds cold! What was the air temperature? If you were getting cold, it must have been.

    The only related bird we get is Canada goose here, and their flyovers always puzzle the cats, but I guess it’s no surprise that we wouldn’t be seeing the trumpeters. In fact, as I look at the (old) range, it shows the endangered Trumpeter as in the North America northwest. Interesting how they’ve made your area their own!

  4. bev Says:

    Cathy – Thanks! I thought I’d better mention about “sound up” as i keep the mute on most of the time when i’m surfing around the net too. I think i’m able to hold the camera still well because this model of Nikon is fairly large, and I always shoot with the LCD screen flipped open (it has a fairly large, articulating screen). I hold the camera by the screen with my left hand, and the handgrip on the right side in my right hand. It almost feels like holding a small steering wheel! I just steer the camera around to whatever it is I’m photographing and it seems to stay quite still. Believe it or not, I have very shaky hands except when I’m shooting photos or holding a paintbrush. (-:

    robin – oh, exactly! it’s very uplifting to hear the swans honking and trumpeting.

    Wayne – Let’s see… I had to go check the Environment Canada website to pull up some numbers. That day was supposed to be around -3C (27F) in the afternoon, but with the windchill (windspeed in Ottawa was around 25kph, but I can tell you it was MUCH windier out in the middle of the causeway on Big Rideau Lake!!!) it says it is more like -10C (14F). Out there on the ice of the frozen lake, I’ll bet you could knock off quite a few more degrees as the wind just roars across that huge area of open ice.
    The Trumpeters that we see around my area are part of a reintroduction program. There have been a couple of such programs here in Ontario (Mac Johnson Conservation Area, and Wye Marsh). The number of swans is still small, but gradually growing. They seem to like to spend winters in the reaches of open water below the locks and dams in the Rideau River and canal system. We saw a couple at Jones Falls Locks on our way home from Kingston yesterday.

  5. John Says:

    It’s amazing how the trumpeters seem to be synchronized…when one head moves up, so does the other. They echo one another incredibly tightly, too, as if their vocalizations were choreographed!

  6. bev Says:

    John – I’m glad that you mentioned the “in synch” thing. We noticed the same and had a bt of a laugh over that — how they seemed to be moving together and their voices seemed to be so in synch too!

  7. Peter Says:

    Great videos… cold! Per the synch thing, I was watching a documentary called “Wings of Nature” just a few days ago, and some of the water birds they documented purposely practiced being in synch for hours on end. It may well have been another type of swan they were showing.

    Hope you had fun aorund Kingston, I was there on Friday and Saturday, lots of Canada Geese along Lake Ontario, and all kinds of migrating birds on Amherst Island now.

  8. Peter Says:

    To follow up, it is the ‘Whooper Swan’ (Cygnus cygnus)documented in the video, that mirror eachothers movements before mating season.

  9. Dave Says:

    Wonderful birds. They look so regal.

  10. Marcia Bonta Says:

    Great to hear those trumpeter swans. And all your photos of snow remind me of our five years in Maine. It was exciting when we were in our late twenties. Not sure how we would take it now. Up in Maine, at least, no one was insane enough to live a mile-and-a-half up a mountain hollow. Our place in Maine was next to a country road and the man who plowed our driveway had an easy pass.

  11. bev Says:

    Peter – Thanks for posting more info about the “synch thing”. We had a good time down around Kingston. Went down via Opinicon Lake road and retuned home via Battersea. We turned off and drove along the road that crosses the bridge at Brass Point. It’s very scenic and the bridge is quite cool. You probably know the one I mean.

    Dave – They are wonderful birds. The ones in this area are quite used to humans so they’ll swim right up to you. It’s nice to have such a close look at them.

    Marcia – I must say that we used to “enjoy” the snow a lot more than we do these days! (-:

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