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Trumpeter Swans are majestic migrators

March 12, 2011

TRUMPETER SWANS are huge waterfowl. They are five feet long, have a seven foot wingspan and adult males weigh about 28 pounds.It takes a lot of power from strong wings and chest muscles to get this big bird into flying mode. However, once in the air, it is a graceful flyer that holds its neck and head straight out.

People have organized to help Trumpet the Cause which is a reintroduction programs in several Midwestern states including Iowa. As a result, captive swans have raising young which have in turn matured and are free-flying reproducing birds almost 20 years after the program began. The Green Castle Recreation Area was just one of many sites in Iowa where adult pairs of swans were released. Over the decades, many cygnets from Green Castle have gone on to free flying status. Some of 'our swans' were released with others at a wintering area, the Holla Bend National Wildlife Refuge in northwest Arkansas.

Another hot spot for wintering swans is Beemer's Pond, a highway 20 borrow pit located near Webster City. This past winter the swan count at this one site was 162. Additionally a quarry site near Atlantic had 46 swans and 36 swans called Nora Springs, Iowa home for the winter. Private ponds belonging to Bob and Mary Boock held 25 wintering birds. Minnesota had the most with an estimated wintering flock of 5,500 trumpeter swans. 101 trumpeter swans resided at Missouri's Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge for their winter home. In north central Arkansas's Magness Lake, 274 swans were present.

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Big white waterbirds that are too big to be mistaken for snow geese most likely are Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator). Such was the case this week at the new wetland complex at the Iowa River Wildlife Area north of Marshalltown.The site is adjacent to Sand Road with a convenient parking area nearby. During the first week of January 2011, Iowa’s midwinter survey tallied 289 swans.

A green neck banded swan known as 1P1 and its mate were observed in Iowa at Beemer's Pond on Nov. 27. On Jan.14, the pair was at Magness Lake, Ark. 1P1's story is that it hatched in the summer of 2007 at Iowa's Lake Wapello State Park. It was released into the wild on Jan. 24 at Holla Bend, Ark.

With so many trumpeter swans in the flyways, it is a wildlife management success story in which hunters' dollars and other private contributors worked together to purchase and conserve habitat sites to initiate this great program for swan survival. At the end of the 18th century, this swan was thought to be extinct. It wasn't. A few were identified in remote places of the Rocky Mountains of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Later, more were found in parts of Alaska and Canada. In 1935, a national park was created in Montana's Centennial Valley. It was called Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.

By the 1950s Trumpeter's numbered 640 birds. Midwest introductions began in the 60s in Minnesota with eggs collected from Red Rock NWR, Lacreek NWR and the Minnesota and Brookfield Zoos. Fifty eggs from Alaskan swans were added to nests from 1986 to 88. To date, over 350 swans cygnets hatched in Minnesota have been released from captive flocks. Other states in the Midwest have added to the grand total. Wow! Neat things happen when bird enthusiasts, hunters and bird watchers, join ranks to help Trumpet the Cause. My hat is off to all that helped in any way for the long term conservation management of this big bird.


There is still time to help non-game wildlife, from swans to swallows, through Iowa's 'Chickadee Checkoff.' On your Iowa 1040 income tax reporting forms, do not overlook a contribution to the Fish and Wildlife Fund. It is just one way to participate. Thanks.


Small things like hummingbirds are miracles in this author's mind. Compared to a swan, a beak to beak face-off of a swan and a hummingbird is quite a contrast in size. Yet they are still birds, with hollow bones to reduce weight that still retain strength. Feathers adorn the body mass. Wings beat to make them fly.

Now consider this little artificial bird ... a hummingbird aircraft look-alike called Nano Hummingbird. It is a 6.5 inch wingspan machine designed and built by AeroVironment, Inc. The device can fly, hover and do fast forward flight with its man-made wings. It carries its own energy source of an AA battery, a video camera, communications systems and motors. It tips the scales at less than two-thirds of one ounce. It can be controlled to fly vertically, fly sideways left and right, go forward or backward, rotate clockwise or counter clockwise and hit speeds of 11 mph. It is uses for the defense department are just one possible place for its future in reconnaissance and surveillance applications. Watch the birdie. It could be watching you.


DUCKS UNLIMITED meets tonight at the Regency Inn at Marshalltown. A ticket at the door is $45 but will be well worth it. The doors open at 5 pm. You are invited to help the cause of wetland conservation by participating in programs that benefit all wildlife.


How about this for a short bit of advice: Stay off of the ice on area ponds and lakes. Iowa has experienced some drownings due to the temptation to go ice fishing one last time. Be safe. Now is the time to fish from shore.


Iowa 2011 fishing licenses are great investments in the outdoors. You help protect and enhance quality fish populations with the money you spend. Annually, residents and non-residents totaling about 400,000 people buy a license to fish. The money goes into the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund where it can only be used for fish and wildlife resources. Iowa DNR fisheries personnel stock over 160,000,000 fish each year, do research, protect stream habitats, restore lakes and improve access. Remember that fishing is a pastime that will live a lifetime.


Check out the many Marshall County Conservation event in March including:

A Brown Bag Lunch will be held March 18 from 11:30a.m. to 1p.m. at the GrimesFarm with the topic on Hunts Highlights. Bring your lunch or a snack and join the naturalist for an informal program.

Junior Conservationists for sixth through eighth graders will be held on March 16 from 2:45p.m. to 5 p.m. The session is called "Branching Out" and will teach you how trees benefit us and how you can help. If you are interested contact the Conservation Center at 752-5490 for permission slip and to register.

Uncle Ike Nature Program for grades first through fifth (family members welcome), will be held on today from 9 to 11 a.m. at the GrimesFarm Conservation Center. The program is cosponsored by the MCCB and the Izaak Walton League. This award winning program is FREE. "Exciting Cycles of Nature" is this year's theme. The March 12 session is called "Animals Go Round," Do animals always stay the same? Explore the natural changes some animals make during their lifetime.

Preschoolers and their adult(s) are invited to listen to fun nature stories, take a walk and explore nature's wonders for Nature Story Hour. Join us on the first and third Wednesdays each month. March sessions will be held March 16 from 10 to 11 a.m.


You know you are in a redneck church if ... People ask when they learn that Jesus feed the multitudes, whether the two fishes were bass or catfish, and what bait was used to catch'em.


Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.



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