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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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Grab a pair of decent binocs and head out to Sabino Canyon and scramble up to the top of one of the east of the creek foothills, bring water, it's a longer climb up than it looks :)

I used to watch the hawks and occasional eagles catching the thermals above the cliffs there - they'd spiral up many thousands of feet into the "eye test" zone where I could barely see them and then head out towards Mt. Lemmon or the Rincon mountains. Rarely would they head south over the valley proper, I guess all the homes have ruined their hunting grounds over the years.

You can see large numbers of birds during migrations too, pretty impressive stuff and occasionally some mule deer will be wandering about in the early morning or late evening hours as a bonus.

Lots of humming birds near the creek and a bunch of other small desert birds around - keep an eye out as you climb up and down the hill, there's different birds at different altitudes.


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