[Tweeters] Skagit Delta Snow Geese

Gary Bletsch garybletsch at yahoo.com
Mon Oct 28 21:04:31 PDT 2013


Dear Roger and Tweeters,
 
There have been Snow Geese on Fir Island this year since late September, if not earlier. Numbers are building day by day. I'd say that's typical.
 
Generally, the Snow Geese do arrive in numbers before the swans do, but sometimes there are small numbers of early swans that get here before the geese.
 
I saw my first swan flock of the season last Friday, October 25, at Judy Reservoir. There were 31 swans, of which 12 were Tundras, 6 Trumpeters, and 13 unidentified. Interestingly, the Tundras were calling a lot, but the Trumpeters were silent.
 
There used to be way more Tundras than Trumpeters in the Skagit Valley, but the Trumpeters have been outnumbering the Tundras for quite a while now. I am guessing that the Trumpeters started outnumbering the Tundras in the mid- to late-1990's, but I don't have data to back that up. I am sure that others have much more accurate counts on these birds, since swans attract so much attention, especially with the Trumpeter being a success story, coming back from the brink of extinction.
 
Tundras are  now harder to find than Trumpeters around here. The best spot for Tundras that I know of is around Dodge Valley, east of La Conner, but you can usually pick out some Tundras by scoping any good-sized swan flock, just about anywhere in Skagit County. I live near Lyman, and we get mostly Trumpeters, but even up here, there are sometimes a few Tundras mixed in.
 
It is not always easy to tell them apart, unless they vocalize. I think that Tundras sound a bit cranelike, but that's probably just my own interpretation. If you scope the birds at reasonable range, you can almost always see the yellow on the bill on the Tundras. Sometimes you can also tell them simply by the shape of the bill, but it takes practice. There are supposed to be some other subtle clues regarding posture, but those don't work for me. Little groups of four or five swans are often Trumpeters, parents plus young.
 
I recall that the people collecting swan data have said in the past that they are happy with counts of swans, even without any distinction made between the two species, since they know that it can be hard to tell the two apart.
 
In just a few weeks from now, birders will have the opportunity to study swans again, as they are arriving.
 
Yours truly,
 
Gary Bletsch



>________________________________

> From: Roger Andersen <nitpicker at comcast.net>

>To: tweeters at u.washington.edu

>Sent: Monday, October 28, 2013 12:39 PM

>Subject: [Tweeters] Skagit Delta Snow Geese

>

>

>Probably an old, familiar story to all of you, but Saturday morning (10/26) I was driving toward LaConner from the I-5 exit at Conway and encountered a spectacular and huge flock of Snow Geese, concentrated at the farm at the first 90-degree right turn.  I have seen them often enough before, but never so early and vocal and alternately flushing in groups and landing.  They were so loud and animated that I wondered whether I might have been watching a first seasonal arrival.  Is that possible?

>

>I could see no Swans, and was told in LaConner that the Swans will follow the Snow Geese by a few weeks.  And this gives me the chance to pose a question that has puzzled me:  Are the Swans that winter in the Skagit Delta all Trumpeters, or do they also include Tundra (Whistling?) Swans?  If both, how do you tell the difference?

>

>Thank you.

>

>Roger Andersen

>Seattle

>

>

>

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