Back in 1993, a friend told Bruce and I about an unusual bird sighting for this area. He had apparently spoken with coworkers a year or so before, but was met with skepticism that he had correctly identified the birds. He told us that for the previous 3 years he had seen trumpeter swans nesting and raising young on one of his baitfish harvesting lakes. Bruce and I were intrigued, wanting to do a proper survey, but our supervisor said it was not part of our approved projects and refused to give us permission.
We weren’t about to be discouraged that easily, so went to explore on our own time. We dragged a canoe through the bush to a small lake Dave had identified. While no swans were seen at that time, we did find a nest on a beaver house that was way too large to be that of a goose. And there were large broken egg shells scattered about, which we collected. DNA samples later proved them to be Trumpeter swan.
A logger also reported swans in 1994 and during our regular field work a coworker and I were able to get a good look at them. We found two adults with 7 cygnets at that time. The tagged female, #125, we found out had been hatched in the Brooklyn zoo in 1988 and had been released in Minnesota in 1990. We found out from the Minnesota DNR who kept records of the swans progress, that this female was known to have taken at least 15 cygnets to the wintering area before she lost her wingtag and could no longer be tracked.
Since then nesting pairs have been recorded on several lakes in the Kenora area, and now are found near Red Lake, Dryden, Sioux Lookout, and Fort Frances.
Dave’s sightings in the early ’90’s would prove to be the first confirmed sightings in Ontario in over 200 years when Europeans exirpated them during colonization of Canada.
Last night as I took the dogs out for their walk, I listened as always to the night calls…geese, sandhills, and yes, flying just along the treeline were a pair of Trumpeter swans making beautiful music in the night air.