Friday, August 12, 2016 Trumpeter Swan cygnets learning to fly

Seward, Alaska

Sunrise 6:05 am, sunset 9:57 pm, for a total day length of 15 hours and 51 minutes. Tomorrow will be 5 minutes and 13 seconds shorter. Clouds/rain/fog/mist continues and more is in the forecast for the next week.

Today was a big day for the resident TRUMPETER SWAN family. At first glance, all was calm and uneventful. One parent took a long break near the road in the sedges, mostly napping and occasionally checking the scene. It was unusual for a parent to be so far away. Far across, in the middle of the pond, the seven cygnets stood on the old nest site preening and stretching. The other parent was out of sight, possibly napping as well.

One after another, each cygnet briefly stretched its wings during the extensive preening process. Their wings were surprisingly large and a startling white against their light gray-brown bodies. Then the adult paddled out from behind nest site and floated in the nearby open water, as if to say, “Come to momma!” (Or poppa.)

I wonder if these cygnets have ever seen their parents fly. Mostly, there was no need as all they ever needed, from nest to food and water, was right here and accessible by paddling. Would they know what to do with those giant wings?

In a jumble, they hopped over the edge, wings outstretched, and beat their way across the water, huge feet pattering on the surface, but never quite getting airborne. What excitement! ALMOST flying! It was like watching baby’s first steps, swan style.

The triumphant cygnets gathered around their proud parent and resumed preening. But Number Seven was still on the nest site, stretching and flapping its mighty wings back and forth, back and forth, testing their strength, as it propelled itself in tight circles. Then it came to the nest edge, and flapped some more, back and forth, back and forth, wanting to go, but not sure. Suddenly, as if worked into a frenzy, off it went, wings flapping mightily as it raced along the surface, leaving giant splashy footprints. "Look at me!"

Every swan stopped preening as it came to a gliding stop just in front of the family, and watched the newest aviator land. Even the parent taking a break had its long white neck up like a periscope to see. It was quite a milestone for the cygnets. It won’t be long before they are accomplished flyers, and then it may be harder to find them.

I felt like a doting auntie, so pleased to watch these young, strong cygnets grow up, and so proud. We are so lucky to be able to observe these special birds and special moments right here in Seward.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold

Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

1 comment:

  1. Every time my email contains one of your reports, I read them with such joy! It is like I'm in Seward enjoying all your reports in person! I've visited the swan family each time I've been down this summer and have been lucky enough to have them sometimes in camera lens view. I'm happy to hear they are now progressing to flight. Yesterday as I was driving along Palmer Hay Flats, imagine my surprise to see a swan family walking in a nice straight line behind Mom and Dad. I'm hoping they made it down this treacherous route safely to wherever they were heading. No pic as I was caught in the 65 mph traffic. They reminded me of a line of school kids following their headmaster to assembly. All those big chests waddling along. Keep up the reports and thanks for making your reports so fun to read!