- Merri-Lee M.
Tundra Swans ... and Friends
In early/mid March, Tundra Swans pass through our area, stopping to feed in flooded fields, small bodies of water, and on agricultural land where there is corn left from the previous year's harvest. The Swans stay here for varying amounts of time, and it is always worth a short drive to see and hear these elegant creatures.
Tundra Swans begin their Spring journeys on Chesapeake Bay in Delaware, where they spend the Winters. They will head from our area to the fields of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and North Dakota, to fill up and rest again, before flying to Arctic breeding grounds for the Summer.
On March 12, we drove to the "Swan Fields" near Grand Bend, to watch thousands of Tundra Swans that were puddling in a few flooded areas, or sitting in corn fields. It was a bitterly cold day, with a strong West wind that nearly blew my camera over, but the Swans (almost) made me forget about frozen fingers! The birds were sitting a good distance from the road, and there was a heavy "shimmer" over the water, so flight shots were the only option. Fortunately, the Tundra Swans were flying over us at close range; singly,
or in small groups (families?).
At one point a Sandhill Crane passed over, and turned to take a look. The sheer size of a Sandhill Crane, especially when it is directly overhead, is a bit daunting...
We met some friends in Aylmer on March 15, and were able to have some clearer views of Tundra Swans in the flooded fields. Feed is placed along the berms at this site, and the birds fill up on corn every day without having to travel very far.
Seeing this many Tundras in one spot is a wonderful experience; listening to the distinctive sounds of their conversations always makes a visit even more enjoyable!
Due to Covid restrictions, the viewing stations were closed, but we were able to stand outside at the top of the steps, and lean around the building to snap a few shots.
Every now and then, it seemed that an argument would break out among a small group of Tundras, and they would gather together, lean in, and noisily state their opinions.
When they all felt that they had been heard, they would walk away calmly,
and feed or rest again.
On these photos we can see the almost-pure white feathers, red-pink "lipstick" ("beakstick"??) and small yellow patch in front of the eyes that tell us that these birds are adult Tundra Swans.
This adult Swan is not completely white -- playing in the mud, perhaps?
Juvenile Tundra Swans have grayish necks and heads, and some gray on their wings.
All of the Swans spent time "primping and preening".
There were some other interesting finds at Aylmer on the 15th of March. Along the trails, we saw our first brilliant Male Eastern Bluebird of the year, feeding among the grasses and brush,
along with a flock of very vocal Red-winged Blackbirds.
The skies were busy too:
about 30 Pintails, unmistakable even from a distance, against the sun,
a young Bald Eagle,
and, of course, lots of Canada Geese, were on the move.
But the Tundra Swans really did steal the show!
As of today, there are only about 75 Tundra Swans being reported at Grand Bend. Hopefully the others have eaten their fill, rested sufficiently, and are energized for their journey to the Arctic.
See you next Spring, Beautiful Birds!
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