By Elaine Caton, Trumpeter Swan Restoration Program Coordinator
In July we captured two non-nesting adult swans in the Blackfoot and fitted them with very lightweight collars with GPS units. These collars transmit locations to us via cell service, and they have already given us lots of valuable information about the swans. We have been able to track their daily movements in the Blackfoot Valley from late summer to fall migration, giving us a much better idea of the places and habitats in the valley that they use and how much they move around. You can see, for example, that Swan #1 traveled around the watershed quite a bit between Ovando, Helmville, and Seeley Lake and even ventured slightly into the Swan valley before she headed south on November 8:
We’ve also been able to see their migration path south, the exact timing of their departures, where they “layover” on their way south, how long it takes them to reach their (perhaps not final) destination, and more. Swan #1 was in the Ovando area (on the lake where she spent the summer) on November 7. On November 8 she flew south to the Warm Springs State Wildlife Management Area, where she spent the next two nights. On November 10 she flew 80 miles south to end up just south of Alder, Montana, in the Ruby River Valley:
Since the data from the collars can only download when within cell tower range, we don’t have any more recent information on her locations, but we are eagerly waiting to “hear from” our Blackfoot swans again!