[Tweeters] Mercer Island - Flyover Tundra Swans!

Joshua Glant josh.n.glant at gmail.com
Mon Dec 21 08:22:17 PST 2015

Hello Tweets,

I took a nice walk to my patch yesterday afternoon: Ellis Pond in the middle of Mercer Island. Great habitat in a fine location - my new year's resolution is to come here more often! I saw 15 species, which is not bad for an afternoon in late December.

At 2:21 PM, I was surprised to hear high-pitched waterfowl calls coming from above. Expecting to see Canada or even Snow Geese, I was stunned when instead 14 swans appeared over a row of Douglas firs. Acting quickly, I pulled out my camera and snapped two pictures, then got my camera rolling video as the birds continued to call and then disappear over the tops of firs on the other side of the road.

In the moment afterward, I reflected on the calls I had just heard: much higher than any Trumpeter Swans calls I had ever heard, and indeed definitely recalling geese. Looking at online sources, I noted that the calls I heard were an exact match to the Tundra flight calls that I could find. Furthermore, in a later conversations with two other birders, they corroborated the goose-like call, and also mentioned that the two species rarely mix their calls (which seems, from what I've seen, to hold true). Therefore, I felt comfortable confirming that these were, indeed, Tundra Swans, despite them being the rarer option.

Alas, no sighting is ever perfect; I traced a line of the swans' flight path as I could recall it onto a map, and found that the line passed very near to my house. I could very well have added a new species to my yardlist! Ah well, all is fair in love and birding. You win some and lose some, and I was certainly happy to have seen the swans at all. Birding is about the surprises as much as it is about the familiarities! Oh, and when I traced the line further, I found that it crossed over both Mercer Slough and, even more significantly, Marymoor. Something to look out for in the park, perhaps?

Here is my eBird checklist with two terrible photos that just confirm that they're indeed swans and not geese:

And here is the video with swan calls just faintly audible (you might also note the fast flight, but it was so windy that I don't really think this does anything to support one species over the other):

Tundra Swans are a new patch bird, and a BVD [Better View Desired] lifer for me.

Good birding as always (you never know what you're going to find!), Joshua Glant

Mercer Island, WA


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