Monday, January 12, 2009

January Deep Freeze

Feeding the Swans, January 3, 2009, Lasalle Park, Burlington ON
Mute swans (orange bills) and Trumpeter Swans (black bills)

Since our late December thaw, the weather has turned cold and open water is once again turning to ice. I took the above picture in the first week of January when Burlington Bay was completely ice free. Many ducks over winter on the shores of Lake Ontario and in the past week they have been grouping together in shrinking open areas as the ice surface grows.

Female Mallard on ice

Some ducks seem content to sit on the ice surface, especially at this park where they know humans will provide handouts for dinner. This is where a group of Trumpeter Swans spend the winter after they breed in northern Ontario. I have written before (here and here) about the committed volunteers who come daily to count and feed the tagged swans.

Young Trumpeter Swan caught in the ice

I visited during feeding time on a cold, snowy afternoon last week. A first year swan was stuck in ice on the bay and was unable to walk on the soft surface, nor was it able to fly upwards out of it. We watched it struggle to break through the mushy ice one stroke at a time. If the bird had turned to the right, open water would have been reached sooner, but it continued on its straight path even though it was obviously fatigued.


This picture was taken with a lot of zoom making it look like the swan was closer to shore than it really was. A heavy snow squall had moved in from the lake and I did not stay to see if the bird made it out of the ice. The volunteers saved a special portion of corn for the young swan and waited for it to get to shore. There wasn't anything people could do to help the situation.

The birds at the park recognized their caregivers and responded with loud trumpeting when their car drove into the driveway. They watched while the corn was removed from the vehicle and placed in bins on a sled. The 25 second video shows the noisy Trumpeter Swans (black bills) as well as other ducks getting their daily portion of grain.


Burlington Bay- January 9, 2009

Our temperatures will be dropping to -25C this week and there will be no more open water in this area. The survival of these birds over the next few weeks will depend on the supplemental feeding provided by these people who are working hard to re-establish Trumpeter Swans in Ontario.

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28 comments:

  1. Is it just me or those necks are longer than they ought to be?

    Very nice post.

    Mine is over at http://ewok1993.wordpress.com

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  2. These swans are something! Great photos and post.

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  3. Trumpeter Swans have straighter necks than the orange-billed Mute Swans commonly seen in parks.

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  4. It is good to hear that people are taking it upon themselves to feed these birds.Sometimes nature needs a helping hand.
    Blessings,Ruth

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  5. Ruth: Thanks for sharing this part of your world. The photos and vedio were really nice.

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  6. This is such a great post. I had no idea the trumpeter swans over-winter on the north side of Lake Ontario at Burlington!

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  7. Great winter shots Ruth, its been quite the winter in Canada eh?

    Cheers!
    Regina In Pictures</a

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  8. Cool pictures and cold out there.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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  9. I always heard that one shouldn't feed ducks (swans?) because once they run out of food, they fly south. If humans continue to feed them, they overwinter and often die. Maybe this is not true of your swans. I don't know.
    I am glad somebody is feeding them since it looks like there are a lot of them.
    That was a neat video. Are they ever noisy!

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  10. Wendy- Trumpeter Swans have recently been reintroduced to Ontario as their numbers were decimated in the past. These volunteers are part of a well organized conservation group who are trying to build the numbers of these birds. Trumpeter Swans can be hunted south of the border and they do not want these birds to leave Canada for that reason. Feeding ducks bread an other junk pollutes the water and breeds bacteria that can kill the birds. These swans are fed dry corn only.

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  11. That's amazing. I know the open water is getting smaller and smaller. I put out cracked corn and game bird pellets and some of the mallards fly in at dusk to get some and fly out.(I then pick up the trays of food at night) It is a tough time of year for resident waterfowl...

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  12. What beautiful birds stretching their necks for food. But soooo cold. Sure hope that youngster found its way out of the ice. Nice tour of a piece of your world.

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  13. Bless those who are feeding the birds. I feel so bad for them in cold weather. Great photos.

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  14. Oh, I do hope they survive the winter Ruth. It's good that people have taken responsibility to help them through the coldest time.

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  15. How wonderful to have so many swans in your vicinity!

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  16. Oh dear..hope that poor little swan made it out safely..
    so nice the volunteers help them all out.1
    Loved the video and the sounds the swans make...it too see the snow coming down and me not in it...tee hee..

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  17. Wow - that is neat! Love the photo's and the story. Sounds like a great outing to watch the swans and ducks. Nature is pretty neat.

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  18. I hope all of these swans make it through. It's amazing that the birds do manage to survive the winters like they do.

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  19. It is so difficult for creatures of the wild to sometimes survive the harshness of winter. I do hope these swans survive. We do not have swans in New Brunswick and it is such an amazing sight to see so many in your photos. What magnificence that must be!

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  20. I know there are two schools of thought on this process (for & against), but I'm in the "for" school and it's good to see that other people also follow this doctrine.

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  21. Ruthie- In this case, human activity caused the birds to be extirpated from Ontario, and it has required human activity to reintroduce them. If we did not interfere in the first place, our intervention now would not be necessary.

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  22. Awesome photos. The birds are so cute even on ice.

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  23. I am happy someone is trying to get these wonderful animals back.

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  24. Wow, you almost make me want to be there! I love all the ducks and swans! Are you doing Big January also? You mentioned you were on one of my blogposts and you said you were posting a list in your sidebar but I can't find it. I wanted to add you to my list if you are. Thanks!

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  25. Ruth,

    Beautiful photos of LaSalle Park in Burlington where all of these beautiful waterfowl spend the winter. I sure hope all of them make it through this deep freeze that is moving into our area.

    Thanks again for a wonderful post. Be warm and cozy and be safe when driving.

    Blessings,
    Mary

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  26. I am a retired elem teacher who used to read 'The Trumpet of the Swans'[E.B. White] every year to my students as a read aloud. Love your photos.

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  27. Thanks Ruth for enlightening me. I was unaware of the story of trumpeter swans. I am glad they are not being hunted here, but encouraged and fed instead.

    I also didn't realize that feeding bread to ducks was harmful. Will not do that in future.

    We learn so much from blogging!

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  28. Wendy- We do learn from reading other blogs for sure. About the bread... Our city has put a stop to feeding ducks in city parks as too many people were doing it and they were bringing large amounts of bread. The heat in the summer, combined with lower water levels and slow moving water caused bacteria to grow in the water and many ducks died. Feeding bread to ducks is not fatal, it is just that it should not be overdone. Our children used to love feeding the ducks at the park. Just don't throw the food in the water.

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