Another Fowl Arctic Visitor

Foraging Tundra Swans

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Trumpeter Swans Taking Off

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Published on: Jan. 23, 2014

I know many of us have foul words for the polar vortex pattern this winter. While weather definitely does influence our feathered friends I’m not going to focus on meteorology today. During waterfowl season a hunter harvested an unfamiliar bird to this region, a Longtailed Duck (for more about this duck see A Different Bird Indeed post). Earlier this week a couple of birders and the weekly area waterfowl survey accounted for another member of the waterfowl family that also spends its summers on the arctic tundra wintering at Duck Creek Conservation Area.

Tundras in Missouri

Three to five tundra swans were spotted at different times on Pool 2 in the flooded moist-soil vegetation. This is not the only location in Missouri where tundra swans have been seen this year. In northwest Missouri, there have been sightings at Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge earlier in the fall and more recently a couple were recorded on Bob Brown Conservation Area. In mid-Missouri there has been a group of tundra swans on Binder Lake just west of Jefferson City. Finally, just north of St. Louis there have been a few tundra swans mingled in with the hundreds of trumpeter swans on the wetlands surrounding the Riverlands Audubon Center. While the species for other reports is unknown, other groups of swans have been recently seen on the Missouri River west of Booneville, at Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge, and on multiple farm ponds scattered throughout the Ozarks. It seems like quite a winter for swan sightings across Missouri.

Abundance and Range

So what makes this a grand occasion or something notable? Well, although tundra swans are North America’s smallest member of the swan family, they are the most numerous. The eastern breeding population estimate is large enough at approximately 100,000 birds that they can handle a degree of hunting pressure. Folks in the Central Flyway in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota along with hunters in the Atlantic Flyway in North Carolina and Virginia can partake in a swan hunt administered through a permit system.

If tundra swans are abundant enough to hunt in some states, why is a sighting here big news? The eastern tundra swan population’s breeding range extends from the northern slope of Alaska to the eastern side of Hudson Bay in Manitoba. Typically, we think of waterfowl pretty much migrating straight north and south within a single flyway

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On February 3rd, 2014 at 10:12am frank said:

Yes, that is one of the areas that needs to be tweaked.  The sandbags were a temporary fix to get through this past season.

On January 31st, 2014 at 6:00pm Anonymous said:

Will the low-water bridge near 10/11 parking lot be raised ( to eliminate the need for sandbags) ?

On January 31st, 2014 at 1:59pm frank said:

Well, we are sizing things up right now in terms of what we think we can bite off and when that will may happen, weather permitting.  The work that has been approved to date involves fishing docks on either side of Pool 1 and wetland enhancement work up at Greenbrier Unit.   Since it was so wet last year during the growing season there are a couple minor tweaks in Unit A we’d like to get to get off of our plate as well, if at all possible. Hopefully, as spring moves closer we will have a better idea of what is lining up and we’ll get you the information. Thanks for the question.

On January 31st, 2014 at 1:18pm Darin said:

What is the next step this spring in the renovation process? Are there many projects to do on the agenda for 2014? Thanks for your response!!

On January 27th, 2014 at 5:16pm frank said:

The weather can rearrange the best laid plans when trying to set the stage for the next fall flight during the growing season. If you've been following this blog we noted that this past summer was extremely wet. We had more than 24 inches of rain between April and June. Although it was too wet to plant corn we got a bumper crop of moist soil plants to respond. The weather can also screw up the best laid plans for a hunting season. After Thanksgiving and the first week of December waterfowl numbers dropped like a rock across the state, not just on Duck Creek because of the extremely cold weather that pushed through and stayed. The last couple of years we’ve had milder winters and birds have lingered longer. As you know, that wasn’t the case this year. Sure, corn food plots can be utilized by waterfowl late in the season as the temperatures dip. If the summer conditions had been different and corn had been planted and actually made it may I’m sure ducks would have used it. However, I don’t believe it wouldn’t have turned the season around. It was a rough one across the state. We’ll see what happens this year. My guess is that it will be different from this past one.

On January 24th, 2014 at 10:14pm Anonymous said:

Saw 7 Swans in front of A1 recently. Do you think corn plots would be a benefit to the waterfowl when the temperatures remain freezing or below?

On January 24th, 2014 at 10:38am Anonymous said:

There's been a group of 23 trumpeter swans hanging around Coon Island for the last several weeks.
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