Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tundra Swans, Again

I can't seem to get enough of these birds.

They don't do much while they're here.  They swim, fly around, vocalize, eat, preen, sleep and bicker.

Yes, they bicker.

It's hard not to be anthropomorphic.  One swan swims too close, lands too close, does a "woo-woo-woo" in a tone that only a Tundra Swan might find offensive.  Then feathers fly, breasts puff out, necks stiffen, wings flap and the bickering starts.

I have no idea what the problem is, but the aggressive display is easy to recognize.  It continues until one of them backs down.  Then, as if a light is switched on - all is tranquil again.

I used to be one of those birdwatchers who delighted in spotting and identifying my quarry. Then I'd move on to the next identification challenge.

Today, I came to see white swans in Alma - again.  They're relatively easy to identify.  Three choices:  Mute, Trumpeter or Tundra.  Go to the ID book.  It's a Tundra Swan (I go by the call and by the "u" shaped border of the eye and bill on the swan's forehead - click on this link to look at Sibley's illustration). 

These days, I find myself more patient, or maybe more curious.  I spend more time watching, waiting for birds to "do" something.  

Today, we watched several groups of swans tip their white feathered fannies in the air as their their long necks disappeared under water.   Seconds later they bobbed back up, bills full of vegetation, their white feathers soiled with the black muck lining the shallows of the Buffalo River.

It was noon - lunch time for swans too.    

We stayed in the car, on the shoulder of CR II - windows down, binoculars up (the temperature was an unseasonably mild 54-degrees).  The birds ignored us.  Suddenly, hundreds of Green-winged Teal and Mallards exploded into the sky.  Only the swans and Canada Geese remained.

What spooked them? 

We looked up in the air and spotted a Bald Eagle, apparently looking for lunch too, flying low over the open water - scaring up the ducks.  Unfortunately for us (and the eagle), we did not get to see the drama of a raptor at lunch today.

We checked the view from Badland Rd and then drove up to Cedar Ridge Resort, expecting to see the backwaters empty of swans.  As I pulled on to the shoulder of the Great River Road and rolled down the car window, I heard the familiar "woo-woo-woo."  Wrong!

Thousands of swans formed a thick line along the backwaters - way across the river where the swans had been feeding last week.

No comments:

Post a Comment