Blackfoot Valley Trumpeter Swans are moving about the valley in preparation for their fall migration. On a small lake in the Ovando area a few days ago, twenty-one trumpeters were found resting along the shore. It was quite a sight to come over a hill and see all those big white birds! Five more swans were on a nearby wetland.
This group was a great sample of the swans in our watershed. It included nine of the ten young swans released last spring a few miles away, as well as a few that were released last year and spent the summer exploring various wetlands in the valley, and at least two of our pairs that had territories but were not successful at nesting this year (see previous posts for more information on the nesting season). There were also four swans with no bands at all, who likely are first-generation Blackfoot Watershed swans hatched in 2011or 2012, now sporting their fully white adult plumage.
Not found in this group but present on another lake was the family of two adults and three cygnets that represent the successful nest in the watershed this year. These cygnets hatched on July 4, and just recently started to fly. In spite of their short period of physical training, these young birds will need to be strong enough to make a migration journey with their parents sometime in the next few weeks!
They will likely spend the winter in southwestern Montana, as many Blackfoot Valley swans have in the past few years, taking advantage of open water near warm springs in the Ruby River Valley. Large ranches there, some with restored wetlands, provide a wintering haven for swans, and a number of interested local citizens keep an eye on our “shared” swans and let us know their whereabouts until they head north again in the spring.