Have you seen these visitors in Wayne County? Trumpeter swans are not new to Iowa or Wayne County, but in the memory of most Iowans, these majestic birds have not been a common sight on local lakes and ponds.
Until recently that is. A few people have reported sightings this spring of trumpeter swans on local farm ponds or lakes. Tim Myers of Humeston captured these five swans on camera at Humeston's Lakeside park, near the shelter house and playground equipment. Myers said they have been there at least five days, maybe longer. Trumpeters were also reported on farm ponds southwest of Corydon.
Local DNR Officer Kyle Jensen says he gets about five reports of trumpeter swans in the county each year, and there are probably five times that many out there. That is up considerably from nine years ago, when the only pair reported in Wayne and Lucas counties was the pair the DNR had identified with neckbands and released.
According to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources website, this largest of all waterfowl once nested throughout the state. As their numbers dwindled, they were given protection in 1918, when the U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the International Migratory Bird Treaty. A nationwide swan count in the early 1930s showed only 69 trumpeter swans in the continental U.S., all found in southwest Montana.
The DNR also says before 1998, the last recorded wild nesting trumpeter swan pair in Iowa was in 1883. More than a century later in 1998, a pair of trumpeters nesting in the wild in Dubuque County hatched three cygnets (young swans). The DNR's program to restore the trumpeters to Iowa began in 1993. Cygnets raised by pairs of trumpeters were identified with brightly colored neck bands and released. The birds seen at Lakeside Park do not appear to have neck bands, but if you spot trumpeters with neck bands, the DNR would like to know about it.
"When making observations of swan markers carefully note the type (neck-collar, wing marker or leg band) and color of the marker, then precisely record the alphanumeric code on the marker (this is usually three digits something like Red J05 or Green 6F2)," the website says. Iowa's banded trumpeters have been spotted as far away as Texas and Manitoba, Canada, and have been known to be nesting on the north shore of Lake Ontario and in southern Minnesota.
"It's definitely a success story," Jensen says of the trumpeters' return to Iowa. And the big birds are definitely a sight worth seeing.