Trumpet of the Swan

I thought the swans and ducks had fled south long ago in search of open water.  But I found a stream that was still running between two of the lakes in the Vadnais Reservoir system, and sure enough it was teeming with swans and mallard ducks.

Waterfowl congregate in the one patch of open water in the Lake Vadnais reservoir.

Waterfowl congregate in the one patch of open water in the Lake Vadnais reservoir.

Although there were a lot of swans in this small area, the Trumpeter Swan is actually listed as “threatened” in Minnesota, due to lead poisoning (from lead shot in lake sediments), habitat loss, and encroaching and competing populations of Mute Swans.

Family groups stay together.  One of the adults is marked with a neck band.

Family groups stay together. One of the adults is marked with a neck band.

Juveniles that don't belong with the family group get chased away by one of the adults.

Juveniles that don’t belong with the family group get chased away by one of the adults.

trumpeter swan

The late afternoon light was difficult to work with — overexposing the swans and underexposing their surroundings.  I like the blue water in this shot.

This group of about 40 swans was relatively quiet, with only occasional trumpets from the adults that sounded more like car horns than trumpets.  But when they really get going, they sound like this…and you can almost imagine a Trumpeter Swan orchestra.

9 thoughts on “Trumpet of the Swan

  1. Beautiful shots of the swans, Sue. I too have trouble when it comes to photographing white birds. I have never been able to get really good shots of the egrets that were here earlier in the fall. What is the purpose behind that orange band around the neck of one of the swans in the second photo? It seems awfully constrictive.

    • Thanks for asking that question, Mike, because this brings up an important point. Some Trumpeter Swans have been marked with wing or neck bands on their breeding grounds, so that they can be followed and some census of the success of the swan population can be estimated. It turns out this particular bird (78Y) was marked in Wisconsin and probably raised a family here in MN. If the band had read Y78 instead, the bird would have been banded originally in Idaho!

      The yellow neck bands are federal tags. They aren’t as constrictive as it looks–they’re just compressing the feathers.

  2. Wow! That’s a real congregation of birds in such a small area. Are they all eating plants growing underwater? As you may have guessed, I know little about waterfowl.

    • I am not sure what they are eating, because this stream flows quite fast most of the year, and there isn’t much growing on the bottom that I can see. Then again, they wouldn’t be there if there was nothing to eat, so…maybe there is more submerged vegetation than is visible from the surface.

  3. I love the video! Now I know why all the swans I have ever seen are called mute swans. I thought it was pretty obvious that they wouldn’t talk.
    The idyllic peaceful mood you created with the lovely photographs was really cracked up by the video – great!

  4. Pingback: Swan River | Back Yard Biology

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