Monday, May 19, 2008

Trumpeter Swans

Burlington Bay- Burlington Skyway in the background

My daughters wanted to go to IKEA this weekend so we headed out to the nearest store in Burlington, about 40 minutes from home. The day was rainy and cold but when we came out of the store the clouds were breaking up. The driver (me!) announced a stopover at a local park on Burlington Bay which is part of Lake Ontario. LaSalle Park has an interesting history and now has a marina, recreational facilities, and nature trails along the waterfront. It is an important winter migration area for many waterbirds and local photographers have posted impressive photos of a variety of birds seen last fall and winter. I didn't expect to see anything special as the over-wintering birds returned north a few weeks ago.

From the parking lot I saw a large number of swans in a small cove and was very surprised to find Trumpeter Swans for the first time. They were all tagged and I spoke with a lady who was doing a daily count of the flock. There were 25 swans present today down from the 100 or so that were present in the winter. She told me the mating pairs had already gone and these were young swans who had not yet started breeding. They do not mate until they are 2-3 years old.

Trumpeter Swans came to the verge of extinction in the early 20th century due to over hunting. They have been reintroduced in several areas and their numbers are increasing to the point where they are no longer endangered. They must be taught to migrate and this has been undertaken in some locations by humans in ultralight planes. A group of volunteers buys corn and feeds the flock at LaSalle Park over the winter. The lady I spoke with was in her 70's and she told me the organizer of the group is in his late 80's. He still comes and tags any new birds that show up in the bay. The swans are not being fed right now and have plenty of food available in the natural environment.

Mute Swan (orange bill) with Trumpeter Swans

There were Mute Swans in the bay as well but the Trumpeter Swan is a native bird unlike its introduced European cousin. The Trumpeters were quite vocal and are well named for their call which some compare to the sound of a French Horn.

Observe the speed limit!

LaSalle Park has a variety of habitats including lake front, marshes and Carolinian forest. Signs were posted along the boardwalk with information on the history and natural environment of the area. Apparently the shoreline here was full of rattlesnakes in the past. There are some things about "progress" that are fine with me! I like the posted speed limit at the marina. I am sure the sign could have a variety of meanings in other locations.

I will be a driver again for anyone who wants to go to IKEA if they agree to a stop-over at the bay.


  1. I'd go to Ikea if we could make a stop like that on the way! I'm always surprized at how big those swans are, so elegant.

    I'll take a pass on the rattlesnakes too!

  2. It is always surprising to see such magnificent birds right in the harbor.

    Lovely pictures and great post.

  3. I too, would go to Ikea with you! If we could stop at Burlington Bay. Such big tags they put on the birds.

    Errr ... did you BUY anything at Ikea? Or did you walk away empty handed? When we go to Ikea we split their meatball lunch. It's really not bad at all and cheap, cheap, cheap!

  4. lol. I too always have ulterior motives when someone suggests going somewhere. My mind immediately retrieves the nature rolodex card for that area....

  5. Anonymous1:18 pm GMT-4

    Such a lovely scene! The Trumpeter Swans are beautiful!! I enjoyed your trip to IKEA. :)

    P.S. Have you heard about the CBC web cam that has been set up in Wpg. for viewing the Peregrine Falcon pair? Apparently the chicks are almost ready to hatch.

  6. What a fun stopover Ruth. Love seeing the graceful swans. :c)

  7. Ruth,

    I want you to take me to Ikea. LOL I love trumpeter swans. Did you know that each year they stop over in Grand Bend on their migration north? I have never been there but know others who have and they say it is an awesome sight.

    I didn't know you could see trumpeter swans in Burlington. I'm going to have to take a trip there one of these days.

    Enjoyed my visit, as always.

  8. Oh the perks of being the driver. As for the swans--the retirement village where my dad lives has a pond, and used to have swans there. BUT a local fox with kits seems to have captured them all--and dispatched them too, I think.

  9. Lynne- The swans are big, elegant and noisy!

    NCMW- The birds in this park were most accustomed to human activity. It was great to get so close to them.

    CS- The tags are enormous! But they track the birds by number every day even when they are out in the bay. I bought light bulbs a soap dish and a toothbrush holder. I have had their meatballs and they are good and the prices are cheap. It was so busy at the store that we ate at Tim Hortons.

    Melissa- I love the mental image... a nature rolodex card..
    Will our children know what a rolodex is!??

    April- Now I have to find a Tundra Swan. I did check the link...great!

    Jayne- With the price of gas I feel compelled to get as much out of an out of town trip as possible.

    Mary- I have been to the Pinery but the waterfront is so big that I wouldn't know where to look for the swans. The swans in Burlington are easily accessible because people have been feeding them. It is a nice area to visit. The park is off Plains Rd and the access is called LaSalle Park Drive.

    KGMom- I think the local volunteers here would do a 24 hr vigil against predators. The lady I spoke with was passionate about saving these swans. I have seen a mute swan in a fight with a Canada Goose and the swan won. I was shocked at how aggressive it was.

  10. We saw flocks and flocks of trumpeter swans making their way north when we were in Saskatchewan a couple of weeks ago...and I finally saw my first cardinal when we were in Virginia!

  11. Great pics, Ruth. The nearest Ikea is 4 hours from us.

  12. Karen- I read that there are 3 distinct geographic groups of Trumpeter Swans and that the western group is the biggest. Efforts to establish them in the east again have been more difficult. It would be amazing to see so many in migration.

    Jean- I wouldn't be doing a day trip to Ikea if it was so far away. All of ours in Ontario are clustered in the Toronto-Hamilton area.

  13. What magnificent birds. Too bad they can get a bit nippy if you get too close.

  14. Wow, what a treat to see all those trumpeter swans!

  15. Ruth; I would love to go to IKEA if it meant we could spend time admiring the beauty of the swans. But, I think I will pass on the rattlesnakes too. Creatures admired from far(really far)away.

    I'm really enjoying your blog. Great pictures and life stories!

    I spotted 2 more catbirds this morning. This time they were meowing. I remembered last year as I walked that trail I heard a faint cry of a kitten. Being an animal lover I must have spent 10 minutes scouring the bushes calling here Kitty Kitty. All I could think about was this poor kitten scared, hungry and all alone. My heart ached. I never did find that cat, but now I know why; I was tricked by a catbird! I was wise to them this morning as they meowed, can't fool me twice. I bid them both a good morning and walked on with a smile on my face. I can't believe that I was taken in by a bird. Nature at it's best!

  16. Nice post and infromation about the Trumpeter.-I've never seen one-or at least not that I know of.

  17. Those swans are beautiful, aren't they? It's neat to see them with the wing tags also.
    Thanks for making the stop and sharing it with us, Ruth!

  18. Thanks SG, Cheryl, Larry, Ruthie and Kathie for your comments. I saw a lone tagged Trumpeter Swan in a swamp 2 km from our home tonight. I hope it makes it north for the summer.


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