Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pairing Off

We visited Lasalle Park in Burlington on the weekend and watched many water birds on Lake Ontario as they paired off for the mating season. The Trumpeter Swans were very noisy and their honking sounded like rush hour in New York City. Many swans were "dancing" with their partners, bobbing their heads up and down in perfect synchronization as they swam in the water. They would fly up into the air and land again in another spot, starting the same routine again.

The mating pairs will soon be flying to northern Ontario to breed but many of the younger birds will remain in this bay for the summer. Trumpeter Swans are elegant, beautiful birds and the large yellow tags do nothing for their looks. Volunteers arrived in the early afternoon to do the daily count of the flock and the tags provide valuable information about their migration patterns.

This handsome pair stood together on the beach. The closeup below shows which bird is the cob (♂) and which is the pen (♀). "Ladies left" is the rule for banding and the males are banded on the right leg. I don't know of any other way for a casual observer to determine the sex of these swans.

The swans were not the only birds who had paired up.

The Ring-billed Gulls were plentiful and made almost as much noise as the swans. Most of our winter gulls have moved on and these common birds along with the Herring Gulls accounted for the majority of the seagulls on the bay.

These Black Ducks paddled around the docks with pairs of diving ducks and Mallards.

Just after we left the park, a group of about fifty Tundra Swans landed for a rest. I have never seen these birds and they do not stay around for long on their migration route. It is impossible to predict where they will be at a particular time. But that is the fun of birding. You can be certain you will not find everything you are looking for, but you can be just as certain that you will see something you did not expect.


  1. The pic of the Trumpeter swans is beautiful - they look so elegant. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a wonderful day you had! The migration north has been a little late this year. Few swallows have returned yet.
    My thrill this morning was to hear a beautiful song about 8AM. I looked out my window at a very close tree and there was a pair of Western Meadowlarks. The female was literally spread out on a bare branch enjoying the beautiful serenade. They usually are in the meadow and very nervous. This was a treat.

  3. Ruth,

    We were at Lasalle on Sunday, just after you, but didn't see the Tundras either. We probably mistook them for Trumpeters.

    Today the volunteers were there and a man educated us on many aspects of Trumpeters. It was interesting and Mom and the boys enjoyed it also.

    I got some good photos, but mostly of Mutes. We were told that 100 Trumpeters left for the North on Monday night.

    Enjoyed your post and will be uploading my photos in the next day or so.


  4. Hi Ruth,

    I wish I have a camera like yours to take photos like you. I like to take photos of birds in flight.

    Just adore the Trumpeter swans photo.

    Are all the swans tagged?

    Where is Lasalle?

    More than 30 years ago, my roommate's dad took me somewhere at Kingsville to see the geese.It was amazing.



  5. Love the Trumpeters!! You are so lucky to get those swans. They are beautiful and I love to hear them call one another!

  6. Why do they put two tags on one bird?

  7. Jeanette- Thanks, I never tire of watching these birds

    Mom- The song of the Meadowlark is exceptional for sure. I believe it was early April when the Eastern Meadowlarks arrived here last year. When you come, I will have to take you to Lasalle.

    Mary- I am looking forward to your post. I figured the birds would be leaving soon. They were so active on Sunday.

    Ann- I got lucky with the flight pictures this time. The light was perfect and there were many birds. Lasalle Park is in Burlington Ontario. If you put Plains Rd E and Lasalle Park Drive into Google maps you will find it. It is very close to Ikea and is right in the city.

    Kim- Volunteers have worked very hard to reintroduce these birds to Ontario. And their efforts are paying off.

    Jayne- The birds are counted every day. When they are swimming out in the bay (as a pair are in the second picture), binoculars are used to see their number. It is helpful to have both sides tagged so it doesn't matter if they are swimming left or right. One of these birds spent the summer in a swamp near our home and we could report the number, even though the bird was always deep in the swamp.

  8. Anonymous8:00 am GMT-4

    Love is in the air. Mating rituals in any animal is very interesting. They sure do some weird actions. But to them it's the best thing. Can you not tell the difference between a male and female swan with the hump on the nose(beak) or is that just a myth?

    Great shots of the water fowls. I agree the tags add nothing to the beauty of the swan, but it is so important to the continuing research.

  9. Wonderful photographs of the pairings. Spring is almost here.

  10. I know a spot around here where the tundras hang, hope I'm as lucky as you, and see them "dance"! Wonderful photos!!

  11. Ruth, your photos are terrific. I do not have the patience to photo birds....I have however been trying to get a photo of the "turkeys" next door to no avail! It is amazing how fast the ice is melting. There were iceburgs on the lake yesterday!
    Have a great day and thanks for visiting.

  12. Two new words for me..cob and pen. I have never seen a pair of pure black ducks before. The swans are just beautiful Ruth...

  13. P.S. I'm loving the biking but my butt is so sore!

  14. Those tags are really eye grabbers. I'm assuming they make them so big so they can ID them by scope, without having to catch them.

  15. It is good to hear that nature is in the process of building the next generation.The Swans do look graceful when the tags are hidden.

  16. We saw our first geese today! Finally. Hopefully soon, more birds will be arriving.

  17. Anonymous6:08 am GMT-4

    Swans are amazing creatures... Tremendously beautiful!

  18. Ruth
    I love the photo of the splashing swans...
    Thanks for the info about the tagging..


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