This has been an interesting summer for the Blackfoot Trumpeter Swan Project. We had a record number of six pairs of swans set up (or return to) territories this year; very exciting news indeed. Four of those pairs actually nested (another record number), but unfortunately only one nest succeeded in hatching young. A wild storm with heavy rain and strong winds in June likely contributed to the failure of at least some of the nests. The nests that failed included our two previously successful nests as well as a first attempt by a new pair. These events certainly emphasize the relative fragility of the low populations of species like the swans, and the importance of ongoing efforts at protecting and enhancing their numbers.
However, the success of a pair that has been struggling for years to nest is very welcome indeed! This territory was first established on a restored wetland on a private ranch in the valley by swan 6P3, who was released in 2008 in the Ovando area. In 2010 she settled with 9P9 and set up a territory. 6P3 and 9P9 returned the following spring , likely ready to nest for the first time. Unfortunately, a few days later 9P9 was found dead under a power line and 6P3 was left alone.
6P3 remained faithful to the territory and stayed there alone that summer. She returned in the spring of 2012 to her territory, this time with another mate. (This new swan had no bands, so either it has lost its bands or it is a wild swan from elsewhere that was never banded.) After a few weeks on the wetland, they built a nest and began laying eggs in the spring. The nest last year failed, but perseverance paid off finally for 6P3 when she and her mate hatched four cygnets on July 4 of this year!
The ten swans released in May are still on the lake and associated wetlands where they were released. They have been joined off and on by swans released last year, as well as some of our Blackfoot swans hatched here in 2011.
Please continue to send us your swan sightings this summer and fall, as opportunities for seeing trumpeter swans in the Blackfoot continue to increase!