Trumpeter Swan Cygnus buccinator
I must freely confess to being a tad enraptured by Trumpeter Swans and whenever I see them, (frequently by the way), I get a little surge of emotion comprised of wonderment, respect and a deep admiration of their beauty. When I hear them trumpeting to each other (hence their name) I am filled with a sense of wilderness even though I only ever see them at their wintering quarters on the north shore of Lake Ontario.
In my fanciful mind I can easily be transported to some northern lake and hear the birds coming in to establish a breeding territory.
It is only due to the dedicated work of Harry Lumsden that we get to enjoy these swans at all (http://travelswithbirds.blogspot.ca/2011/12/harry-lumsden.html) and to the continued efforts of Bev Kingdon (http://travelswithbirds.blogspot.ca/2014/02/beverly-kingdon-swan-ambassador.html) who tirelessly works to ensure their continued well being.
The Trumpeter Swan is a truly magnificent bird. It is the largest of all the swans, although individual Mute Swans Cygnus olor in rare cases may be heavier. Its bill is quite massive and jet black, with no trace of yellow, thus avoiding any possible confusion with Tundra Swan Cygnus columbianus, a species sometimes present alongside Trumpeter Swans at the locations where I observe them.
The large yellow wing tags are unsightly to be sure, and I would prefer another way to identify the birds, but Bev assures me that this method has been the most effective yet tried and that, while the population is now robust and growing, it still needs to be closely monitored. The swans are now venturing farther and farther afield and the high visibility of the wing tags enables people to report sightings. There have been recent reports of birds encountered in the southern United States and in the Saguenay area of Québec. Birders can easily read the numbers through a scope, whereas reliance on the leg band only would almost certainly require the bird to be shot before it could be reported.
It is always very encouraging to see young birds, usually with their parents who guard and protect them for at least the first winter following hatching. Adults help their cygnets to feed by scratching at the bottom of the pond or lake to bring vegetation and invertebrates to the surface, although as the young grow to the size of their parents they are capable of performing this action for themselves.
Look at the detail on the head shots of these cygnets, already well-equipped to handle the world, and to survive the harsh weather an Ontario winter often brings.
I have noticed several people bringing corn to supplement the natural food of the birds, especially as the ice builds up close to the shore and they are forced to feed in deeper water. I have little doubt that this contributes to increased survival rates.
It is perhaps in flight that these birds are at their most impressive and it is a stirring sight to see them in the air, their huge wings outstretched.