Friday, November 21, 2014 Trumpeter Swan Family

Seward, Alaska

Gray skies continue, grays of every shade. At least it hasn’t rained hard recently, just light rain with mild temperatures in the mid 40s. Some lawns in town are still a vibrant green. Very strange.

The TRUMPETER SWAN family is back at the thawed wetland homestead at Mile 1 Nash Road. I spotted them at the nest site this afternoon, all preening madly. One of the adults took an energetic bath, black bill open wide, tossing water over its back as it dipped continuously into the cold water. Then it spread those gigantic white angel wings and beat them back and forth, back and forth, to throw the water off.

The other parent stood on the nest site with the four large cygnets, now about five months old. All were preening, preening, preening, getting those feathers ready for a big flight, maybe sometime soon. One after the other, they spread their wings and beat them vigorously. Sometimes, two swans stretched simultaneously, and only by careful alignment, avoided hitting the other. It was pretty impressive to see them all standing so close together, long necks looping here and there, working away.

It’s also impressive to think of the beauty, utility, and fragility of a single swan feather, the tiny components all hooked together like Velcro. United, they become an armor that insulates, waterproofs, colors, and permits flight. The cygnets have grown and molted untold numbers of feathers since they hatched in June, and have many more to go until they attain the white plumage of their spectacular parents.

When I returned a few hours later, the swans were once again feeding, gathering energy to grow more feathers, and perhaps to fuel their next flight.

I wonder how much longer they will linger in this unusual warm November? Until then, it’s a pleasure to just watch.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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