Every year around Thanksgiving we begin to anticipate the arrival of trumpeter swans on the Peninsula. I like to think of Black lake as swan lake because this is one place where they find refuge until it is time to begin their move northward to the tundra where they breed. Well, they arrived and right on schedule.
To date at least six trumpeters have been observed on Black Lake. Black Lake is perfect for them because trumpeter swans are mainly vegetarian, although they will eat small fish and fish eggs once in a while. Among their preferences, though, are pond weeds, eelgrass, sedges, algae, duckweed and other aquatic plants. On seeing them you may observe them dabbling like ducks with their tails in the air as they feed on aquatic plants or they may be just dipping their heads in the water as they search for a snack. In winter trumpeters will also eat seeds as well as, berries, grasses and other terrestrial plants. So, don’t be surprised if you see swans in fields or croplands.
The trumpeter swan is our biggest and heaviest native waterfowl. It can weigh over 25 pounds, is six feet in length and has a wingspan of about eight feet. This enormous white swan has an all-black bill except for a red border on the lower mandible. Juvenile trumpeters are dingy-gray with dusky-pinkish bills.
Black Lake is just one of the places on the Peninsula to see trumpeter swans. They also find refuge in Loomis Lake, and at Hines Marsh which is located at the end of the Martha Jordan trail, as well as at Leadbetter Point.
The trumpeter swan is a common sight on the Peninsula in winter. In the Pacific Northwest, the birds tend to roost and feed in estuaries. The Willapa National Wildlife Refuge is such a place. It is free of ice and has plenty of food for this species.
Having a hobby, such as birding, helps to lift up our heart and soul during times like those we are experiencing now during the pandemic. We can get outside or look out our windows at our bird feeders. There are many ways to commune with nature. If we take a walk on the Martha Jordan Trail to Hines Marsh, stroll Leadbetter Point or walk the South Bay Trail of Tarlatt we not only get some exercise, but we may also see trumpeter swans, but for sure we will see trees and as the saying goes, there is nothing so lovely as a tree! Going for a drive on the Chinook Valley Road or to one of our ports to look for birds is also an important way to add something pleasant and different to our daily routine. Then, there is identifying the birds we see! It gives our brain something positive to think about and at the same time can be a wonderful learning and satisfying experience. Last but not least, we can connect with others who watch or feed the birds through social media to talk about our adventures and observations.
The trumpeter swans have returned! These enormous, stately white birds are magnificent. Seeing them will bring you joy. As a species they have survived tough times, but now they seem to be thriving. Seeing the trumpeters, watching their behavior and just enjoying them can help us get through tough times too. It is their gift to us. Happy birding and best wishes for 2021.
“Common Birds of the Long Beach Peninsula,” by Kalbach and Stauffer, is available from Bay Avenue Gallery, Time Enough Books and the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau.