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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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You rock. And I love your reports on everything

I wanna see a Tundra Swan up close but it may not happen here in Kansas City.

I have been up to Jackson Hole, Wyoming in the summer and been almost in touching distance of a family of Trumpeter Swans on a pond by a trail. I just sat down and watched them.

I did not cause them the least bit of upset, but I just sat down to watch. However, I was 16 and a bit silly, and perhaps a bit careless but it did not catch me then. Two days later we were trail riding with a wrangler in that same area and saw a ginormous grizzly bear. I asked the wrangler about it and he said, 'oh, he hangs out around here. He's in it for the ground squirrels.' (which were more than numerous AND would steal food right off a plate or out of your hands if it was not offered freely.)

The horses, being range-raised, kind of looked the bear over and went, 'not bothering us' as we passed. Which was okay because sometimes those horses could be somewhat 'special ed' because they were only ridden in the summer.

I did not hike up there by myself ever again.

Our most interesting bird in our whereabouts is a Coopers Hawk that is poaching pigeons (yaay). Our neighborhood is an open forest with large trees, perfect for the hawk.

Re: You rock. And I love your reports on everything

Keep an eye on the KS birding listserve? They show up here at Cheyenne Bottoms rarely, which is only about 4 hrs from Kansas City. There's hope!

Ground squirrels are hilarious. We have one at the nature center I work at, and he has got the Oliver Twist routine down PAT. His little cheeks will be stuffed with seeds and broccoli, but he still runs up to the front of his cage and holds his little paws up for more.

Re: You rock. And I love your reports on everything

Not the OP, but thanks so very much for the link!

I've been happily watching the undulating ribbons of birds in the sky every morning all week long-flocks of thousands, either starlings or blackbirds, I think.

Re: You rock. And I love your reports on everything

I ADORE watching the blackbirds in the sky - I even started composing haiku about it on the way home from work. When it's an unbroken flock from horizon to horizon, just... wow.

Re: You rock. And I love your reports on everything

I could not BELIEVE how big the flock was that was working a farmer's field the other day. So very many, it was just a big black spot in the middle, with no sky showing through at all!

I agree with the haiku! Only type of poetry that fits!

Re: You rock. And I love your reports on everything

And their report page makes me really wish I'd have gone to the trouble of getting a picture of what I believe to have been a Western Grebe at Kanopolis Reservoir about a decade ago.

I didn't know what kind of bird it was until we went to Marion Reservoir a few weeks later, and I looked it up in a bird book there! It was my best guess-a black body, with a pure white throat, and the back of the head was sort of square, as opposed to rounded. It would dive under the water, be gone for over 30 seconds, and come up yards away.

And now, since I've looked them up online, they don't really (quite) look like that! Aaugh!

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