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Swans in the Mist

I went to take the trash out with Kevin, and as we walked back down the long gravel drive, I happened to look up. It’s been very foggy these last few days, so it was one of those oddly bright dusks where the fog is brighter than the sky.

A V-formation of swans went overhead in total silence.

They were very low over the house, almost skimming the tree-line, their outlines just faintly blurred with fog. I could see the darkness of their bills. It was a perfect monochrome image—white birds on white fog with black bills and black scribbles of trees reaching up toward them. There were nine or ten of them, maybe more—it didn’t even occur to me to count them.

It was eerie how silent they were. Geese honk when they go by. These didn’t.

I, being the cool operator that I am, yelled “Shit! Dude! Uh! Thing!” and pointed wildly.

Kevin looked up and said “….whoa.

I scrambled inside and checked the internet. It turns out that North Carolina has the largest wintering population of tundra swans on the East Coast—75 thousand birds. These birds were a good bit farther west and south than usual—I’ve never seen one out here before (or in fact ever, they were lifers for me!)—but given the weird weather and the fact that we’re due a winter storm coming in very soon, I expect they were moving in response to incoming weather, probably heading to Jordan Lake. (All tundra swan reports in this county are on that particular lake, making it a safe bet.)

It was an extraordinary sight, and not one that I expected when I was pulling my coat on to help Kevin drag the trash down to the curb. So I guess you just never know, huh?

Originally published at Squash's Garden. You can comment here or there.


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And does anybody know the difference between tundra swan and trumpeter swan for field marks?
Because I thought WHOA Trumpeters? at your description, and looking at photos on Google is not enlightening me.

Is it just the wedge at the eye? Trumpeter has more black there?

Trumpeter Swans are much larger, largest waterfowl in the world, IIRC, and the bill is solid black with a like of red/pink along the mouthline. Tundra swans are smaller and have the yellow on the beak. Whistlers look much the same as Tundras except the yellow on the beak is a teardrop instead of the larger patch.

*coughs* I spent many years of my childhood helping the Trumpeter Swan reintroduction program in Ontario.


I can see 'your' trumpeter population here:

When I was in Michigan, I did not know we had a population. Cool.

That is a great map, thank you for the link!

It's been several years (sadly) since I've been seriously involved with the birds, but I love them so much, and they're a beautiful bird. Though being clouted across the back of the head by a wing hurts like hell, and my mother can attest that being whomped above the elbow by a wing leaves a bruise for 3 months....

*laugh* Honestly, I did it by probabilities--trumpeters would be VERY odd here, but we have a huge overwintering tundra population in the state.

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Looks like you are back! Thanks so much!

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