Trumpeter take-off

More scenes of flying birds from our Crex Meadows field trip last week-end: Trumpeter Swans on the move.

Crex Meadows-flowage

A typical scene at Crex Meadows wildlife refuge, near Grantsburg, Wisconsin — Trumpeter Swans on the far distant shore.

Crex Meadows is a 30,000 acre network of marshes, lakes, wet meadows, and intermittent oak forest, part of which is set aside as a refuge for waterfowl breeding in and migrating through the area.  It is a remnant of old Glacial Lake Grantsburg that covered this area more than 10,000 years ago.  A variety of bird species use it as a staging area for migration south, like the Sandhill Cranes featured in yesterday’s post.  Trumpeter Swans are usually in great abundance here as well, although we only saw about a dozen of them.

Trumpeter Swans-Crex Meadows-

Swans were feeding and preening themselves quietly in the shallows of the larger lakes. 

Trumpeter Swans-Crex Meadows

These birds seemed quite a bit more skittish than the swans that overwinter in areas of open water near the Twin Cities. But there were hunters in the nearby area shooting at ducks (hopefully not swans), so they might have been leery of human presence.

By size alone, Trumpeter Swans are the largest living species of waterfowl.  They are also one of the heaviest birds capable of flight, with big males weighing up to 30 pounds (14 kg).  Even with large wingspans of 6-8 ft (~ 2 meters), taking off from a horizontal surface takes some effort.  Consequently, swans typically flap their wings to lift their bodies out of the water and then propel themselves forward pushing their large webbed feet along the surface water — launching themselves into the air with a running take-off.

Trumpeter Swans-Crex Meadows-

Slow, deep wing flaps keep their heavy body airborne until they can cruise with the aid of wind.

Trumpeter Swans-Crex Meadows-

Swans fly with their necks outstretched, unlike the more streamlined profile of herons and egrets that tuck their long necks back in a S-curve.

Trumpeter Swans-Crex Meadows

It seems when a couple of swans get jumpy, the whole crew takes off. Not quite the classic V-formation but perhaps they were just hopping over to the next lake — away from us.

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