Monday, September 12, 2016 Trumpeter Swan tragedy AGAIN

Seward, Alaska

On September 5, I observed the fabulous resident TRUMPETER SWAN family flying in formation between their Nash Road nesting site and the head of the bay. The 3 ½ month-old cygnets have progressed splendidly, now the same size as their parents.

On September 8, I refound them napping in the sun on the east side of the Nash Road wetlands. It was hard to count them, partially hidden in the vegetation, but I believe I saw all seven cygnets with their watchful parents.

On September 10, another beautiful sunny day, there they were, feeding peacefully at the pond at the head of the bay. I automatically counted, and then recounted. Only five cygnets? Only five.

Four fed near what I am calling mom, and “daddy’s girl” fed near the other. Whichever the gender, one cygnet has always been very close to one parent and can always be found nearby. It’s very sweet.

I immediately flashed on their recent foray to the east side of the Nash Road wetlands, on the other side of the main transmission lines. I drove over to the wetlands and within minutes, found a limp, dead cygnet in the shallow water under the wires. I did not find the other, but assume it too, hit the unseen wires, lost its balance, and fell to its death. Perhaps a predator hauled it off, or a human. There is no way that an uninjured cygnet would not be with the rest of the family.

As I was out of town on September 9, I do not know exactly when this tragedy occurred, but it was between September 8 and 10.

Trumpeter Swans are protected by federal law under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Utilities, including cable companies, can be prosecuted and fined for causing deaths. To date, two of the four cygnets from the first family of 2014 died on January 4 and 6, and two of the six cygnets from the 2015 family died on October 2, all at the Lagoon. Six cygnets have now died from collisions with the wires.

The Lagoon distribution lines and cable lines are slated to be buried underground in 2017 which is very good news for the swans, eagles, herons, and other birds that just can’t see the wires, especially in low-light situations.

The Alaska Sealife Center responded to my call and picked up the dead cygnet. The required report was filed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in collaboration with the Seward Electric Department.

These power lines are high voltage transmission lines and thus cannot be buried. They need specially designed diverters to protect the resident swan family.

P&R Tech makes a glow-in-the-dark SpanGuard Bird Diverter for high voltage lines. <>

As with the four swan cygnet deaths in 2015, it would really help to contact the City Manager and Seward Electric Department and ask them to install markers on these power lines ASAP before any more swans die. It is way past time!

City Manager Jim Hunt, 907 224-4047,
Electric Department Utility Manager, John Foutz  907 224-0471 
Carol Griswold, Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

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