I enjoyed my first official outing as a new member of the Peterborough Field Naturalists as several of us explored the Rice Lake area on Sunday, November 25th. This was a first for me on many fronts, as I am only usually in this area in April to see dozens of Osprey return to Ontario for the breeding season to fight over the best nest locations that are well-established along the shoreline of Rice Lake. It was an odd feeling to see so many abandoned Osprey nests, but instead we enjoyed seeing several species of waterfowl, including Common, Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Buffleheads, Common Loons, and Canada Geese.
Martin and Jerry shared with the group some of their special birding spots along the shores of Rice Lake as well as the Otonabee River, but for me the unexpected highlight of the day was our final stop. Martin had a lead on a pair of Trumpeter Swans that had been reported in the area, but upon our arrival, the distant pair of swans were seen only through our scopes, but the homeowners showed us photos. Much to my surprise and delight, it was J83 and J86, two of the record number TEN cygnets born at Sturgeon Lake in 2011, aka my "Trumps"!!
In October, 2011, this massive family appeared out of nowhere in our back swamp at my family cottage:
Dad is tagged as 902, and at that time mom was "naked", having lost her 131 tag but has since been re-tagged. There were ten cygnets in all, go ahead, count them!! I decided to report my sighting to the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group and it turned out that this was a record number of cygnets for the province! They over-winter each year at LaSalle Park in Burlington, which was where mom and dad were tagged by a dedicated group of volunteers.
Even though October marked the end of cottage season for me, for the next several weeks I kept track of "my" Trumps through good friends from the Kawartha Field Naturalists. I learned that my Trumps had taken up temporary residence across the lake, having scored an excellent food source with Sharon and Joe who provided corn to them, in an effort to "tame" them up so they could eventually be tagged and banded at LaSalle Park where they would presumably go with their parents.
But for a few weeks, there was also quite a bit of drama with the Trumps, as one of the cygnets went missing and was presumed dead. We were all quite saddened when suddenly she returned to the family. Sharon and Joe and I were thrilled, but the parents, 902 and 131, not so much, as they chased off the wandering cygnet any time she got too close to the rest of the family. I named her "Outcast", as she truly was an outcast now, and any attempt to feed her corn was met with a relentless attack by a parent. But with time she was allowed closer proximity to the family, but even when they all arrived at LaSalle Park, she was always a bit separate from the family, but easy to pick out amongst the few hundred over-wintering Trumpeter Swans.
Beverly Kingdon and her volunteers from the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group notified me when my Trumps arrived at LaSalle Park and allowed me the honour of watching them catch up, tag and band two of the cygnets. Ten consecutive tags for this special family had been selected, J80 through J89, and the first cygnet caught up was destined to be J86:
Julie fed corn to one of the unsuspecting cygnets and suddenly grabbed it up, no easy feat when you consider their weight, which I know first hand from my own volunteer experience at the Toronto Wildlife Centre:
It was then banded, tagged, and sexed (male) by both Julie and Kyna:
...and then released, notice the amount of brown on its wings and back!!
A second cygnet was caught up next before we lost our light for the day and was now J87. A few days later, and not surprisingly the last cygnet from this record family, "Outcast", was caught up and tagged as J89. I returned to LaSalle later that winter to see my Trump family again, but did not see them at all this year on Sturgeon Lake at my cottage, even though I knew the parents, 902 and 131, had nested again in the area with a paltry six cygnets, perhaps a more manageable number for them to cope with!
Until last Sunday, that is, on Rice Lake, just before sunset, here were both J83 and J86!
They looked wonderful and healthy, and soooo white now, with any of their brown and gray feathering from last year virtually gone:
And here's J86, the very same male that I had the pleasure of seeing tagged almost a year ago, how crazy is that??
I would imagine that they will soon return to LaSalle Park to spend their winter, so I look forward to perhaps seeing them again soon, especially "Outcast" that I admittedly have a soft spot for.
By coincidence, I received a press release in the mail yesterday from the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group, drawing attention to a proposed marina expansion at LaSalle that may in fact threaten their wintering habitat. For more information please contact Beverly Kingdon firstname.lastname@example.org