Where have all the swans gone?

As the weather turns colder and the availability of ice-free water decreases, trumpeter swans begin their migration to areas of ice-free water and year-around food supply.  This past October, the Blackfoot Valley experienced a cold snap that sent the “returning swans” those that were released prior to 2009, headed for open water.  All that is, except for swan 6P3 who paired with a 2009 released bird, one of the “new birds on the block” so to speak.  So long as there is open water, these “new birds” will remain in the Blackfoot, flying from one wetland to another in search of food, stretching their wings and saving their energy for their exhaustive journey to somewhere warmer.  As we approach Thanksgiving, we may soon see the last of them for another year.  Since the Blackfoot Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program began releasing swans in 2005, summer-released birds typically leave the Blackfoot Watershed sometime between November 15th and December 10th with the returning birds typically leaving after the first cold spell.  Trumpeter swans travel as far south as they need to gain access to lakes or ponds that a have an ample supply of suitable supply of food and that do not freeze even when the weather dips far below zero.  This is why Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is such an important place for trumpeter swans as well as other waterfowl species.  Warm springs keep the water ice free and stocked with a vast food supply of macroinvertebrates, an excellent protein source for the birds.  To view the trumpeters before they leave, visit Lake Helena Wildlife Management Area where 20 trumpeters were reported to have been spotted this morning.