As I drove around the refuge I stopped and hiked around the waterways in search of the elusive swans. Putting me on a trail is a little like putting a race horse in the starting gate to await the starting gun. Once I get started, a little hike on a little trail expands till I've seen it all.
In the 1800's and early 1900's they were nearly hunted into extinction. There feathers were used for quills and their skin was used for cosmetic powder puffs.
In an effort to increase the declining populations, wildlife experts began bringing groups of cygnets to the Turnbull Wildlife Refuge in the late 60's. It is possible that Solo was among those cygnets.
Cygnets raised in captivity or who were moved from their native habitat often abandon there migratory rituals.
In his younger years he did not stand out among the flock. Eventually this male swan developed patterns of returning to the ponds near the headquarters the very day that the ponds thawed indicating he stayed close by and checked on the ponds rather than migrating. He was first banded in 1983 while he and his mate guarded a new family.
|sigh, only ducks here|
That proved a disaster for the swans. The birds dispersed and death rates increased significantly. Adult birds got lost and pairs broke up and few birds returned to the refuge.”
In 1988 Solo's mate mate was killed by predators (assumed to be a coyote) Swans mate for life, but after the loss of a partner, they’ll eventually look for a new one. Solo continued to come back alone, hence he was given the name Solo.
While he still attracted an occasional mate, biologists speculated he could no longer reproduce.
But the elderly swan proved them wrong in 2009, when he finally paired with a mate and sired the first clutch of trumpeter cygnets in 22 years, 4 cygnets. He and his mate returned again 2010 producing five cygnets.
In 2011 on January 26 2011, one adult (thought to be Solo's mate and four of the cygnets returned to the refuge after the thaw. Solo and one of the cygnets were thought to have died. Banding records confirm Solo was at least 35 but his exact age is not known.
I do not have pictures that I have taken of Solo, but I was able to find one on the internet taken by a local reporter, Rich Landers from the Spokesman-Review, as Solo gained a loyal following and a great deal of publicity. His arrivals were announced frequently in local newspaper stories. Much of the information about Solo was gained from articles by Rich Landers. Without permission I am unable to show the picture here but have provided a link to the original picture.