Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Distant white birds

The Comox Valley Naturalists Society holds a monthly meeting with a guest speaker. I drove down last Sunday night, to hear a lecture on plankton and the herring cycle by Dr. John Tayless. Very interesting; I filled a page with scribbled notes.

Before the main event, there was a report from the annual Trumpeter Swan count, and an invitation to join them. At the break, I signed up, and this morning joined a swan counter on the northernmost section of the counting area, about 20 minutes from my door. We counted 85 birds in one field, another 75 in various other fields, all too far away for my little camera. I took photos anyhow.

Typical field. The swan spread out, and occasionally lift off in small groups of two or three, heading for the next field, or a pond.

Trumpeter swans are the largest existing waterfowl in the world, twice the length of the snow geese I mistook them for a week ago, twice the weight of the similar Tundra swan. That word, "existing", is important: back in 1933, they had been hunted almost to extinction. By then, they were down to only 77 swans in Canada, 50 in the US. but a restoration program has been very successful. The east coast of Vancouver Island is along one of their flyways, and by 1990, the annual count turned up 1000 swans. A recent count found 60,000 in the Comox Valley, just south of Campbell River.

Four swans heading for the pond. An eagle is circling overhead on the left. Flocks of assorted ducks and gulls also frequent the ponds; good hunting grounds for an eagle.

In the fall, I'm told, the swans eat high-sugar crops from farmers fields; potatoes, carrots, corn, etc. The farmers, of course, are not pleased with this. Several methods of scaring the swans off these fields have not worked, but the most recent solution has been to plant crops in other areas, in grassland and wetland, crops that are more attractive to the swans. Good thinking.

The tail end of a pond. Later, a flock of dark ducks and more swans dropped in. I like the sun on the trees, turning them yellow.

The swans here are on their way through. By April, they'll have moved farther north, mostly to Alaska, where they will nest and raise their families. They'll be back here next winter.

The eggs are quite possibly the largest of any flying bird alive today. ... The eggs average 73 millimetres (2.9 in) wide, 113.5 millimetres (4.5 in) long, and weigh about 320 grams (11.3 oz) (Wikipedia)

A few birds in the field we got nearest to. Still too far for my pocket camera.

Bonus! We saw more than birds on our circuit; I took this photo from the car window as we passed:

Island Bison Farm.

The count goes on until the end of March. I'll be joining them every Tuesday for the duration.


  1. I had no idea that Trumpeter Swans were so big compared to the others.


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