Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Hunt for the Trumpeter Swans.....Continued!

We have been having a cold spell with lows at night down in the teens (brrrrrrr) and only into the low 30's during the day.  But with the cold has come sunshine and big bright blue skies.  How can I resist a brisk walk in search of the swans.  This day, the morning begins with fog, with the promise of blue skies later in the day.

Since I now know the location of several ponds that the swans frequent I can go directly to those spots and save my hiking energy for getting to those spots.  The most likely pond is a three mile easy round trip hike so I can make that fairly easily if I don't get side tracked along the way.  (Not sure if that is possible)

At the first main parking lot is a trail that leads to the headquarters pond which is currently refilling with winter rains since the repairs have been made on the pond.  A mere 100 feet from the main parking lot is a viewing station that has spotting scopes that view the ponds and back to Cheever Lake.   Cheever Lake is the bottom lake shown on the Map below.

Cheever Lake is my destination today.

The last time I was here, after my hike of over 5 miles as I returned to this spot I could hear the calling of the swans, the flapping of wings and  when I looked into the scopes and I could see that swans had returned to Cheever Lake.  Unfortunately, it was nearing dark and my hip would no longer allow me to take any further side trips.   I could hear there trumpets taunting me in the distance.

That was then.
Today is another day.
So I set out from the parking lot just before the Park Headquarters.  There is another well marked trail along Pine Lakes on a looped trail.

This first section of the trail is a well marked trail that is paved most of the way.  Additional work on the trail this fall as left a small section packed gravel and final paving will be done next spring.  It is an easy hike for most people who can handle the distance and will once again be wheelchair accessible after the repairs are finished next year.

This section of the trail sees a lot of foot traffic and as a result, there is often not a lot of water foul to be found.  People come and the birds take off.

Along the way, benches  not only allow people a place to rest but also a place to be still and wait for returning birds to land on the ponds.

The one problem I encountered here, was other noisy humans arriving; talking loudly and scaring off the water foul as I patiently waited for the birds to return.  The second half of the hike to Cheever Lake is less marked and utilized by far fewer humans to spoil my patient waiting for the swans to return.

Even though I have been along the trail before, each time I return I see new things that I had not noticed on previous trips.  Here is a fallen tree, that has become home to new birds, completing the natural circle of life.

The end of one cycle (the fallen tree),

                            becomes the home of the continuing life cycle.

A nest in the log snag continues the cycle of life

Evidence of wildlife I haven't seen is every where.

Coyote scat is frequently found on the paved trail around the pond.
Is this accidental or coyote attempting to mark their territory as a protest to the advancement of human presence.
(Move on ahead of the sight of scat is offense to you.)

Sorry for the poopy quality of the picture!

 Is this accidental or coyote attempting to mark their territory as a protest to the advancement of human presence.

It is generally easy to tell the difference between canine scat and coyote scat as the more varied diet of coyote is visible.  

On the far side of the pond the path turns back to circle back towards the parking lot.  Down near the pond is a camo hut. 


 Upon inspection it is a bird blind to watch unnoticed for wildlife near the waters edge.  Unfortunately, this is probably only effective on weekdays when there are fewer visitors to the refuge.

 Chairs provide a resting place for the waiting hikers.

Near the camo hut is a fork in the path.  It clearly looks likes the beginning of the service road but it also begins the unmarked path that proceeds to Cheever Lake.  Without a map you would not realize there is a path/roadway to Cheever Lake.  

A bit farther there is a fork in the road.  The sign was laying on the ground, evidence of some kind of accident... with unearthed rocks and a large hole.   I replace the sign to the hole and piled rocks into the hole for this picture.

The fork to the left (unseen in the picture curve on to another little lake).   But I take the fork to the right.  It is unnamed on the map, but I have nicknamed it Elk Bluff as evidenced by the frequent presence of elk or should I say elk scat.   Clearly they like it here and this is probably a feeding ground for them.  

I quickly get bored with following the trail/road and move out into the meadow to the bluff overlook  find all kinds of interesting sights.

Elk ..... ahhhhmmmmm .... droppings


                                                 'Scat on the Run'

The Turnbull Wildlife Refuge is in an area where volcanic activity was prevalent.  Evidence of lava flows is visible  both in basalt cliffs and flows showing through the grasses.

The bluff provides overlooks to the lakes and ponds that I have been hiking around.  The fog has been burning off and I am now able to get a better view of the lakes and ponds.

I walk along the bluff and enjoy the change in scenery. 

Off in the distance ,I hear the call of the trumpeter swans.....  Excitedly, I realize  how much they do sound like toy trumpets.

Listen to the cal of the trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter Swans at Harrison Park - YouTube  


Doesn't it sound like a toy trumpet?

I move back from the edge of the cliff so that I don't frighten the swans as I am approaching.  I can hear that there are many swans and I hope to see them without them flying off before I can observe them and take pictures.  Carefully I move along the edge of the bluff crouching low among the trees for cover.

Then I see them !!!

They are off in the distance, but I sit down on the cold ground so that I can watch them.

The greyer colored foul are young swans, probably this years babies.

I inch ever more close  to  the swans.  As I move closer they move away.  So I go back to sitting.  They are amazing!!

They stay together in small groups unwilling to leave their family cluster.

In total, I count 25 swans.  While they allow ducks to swims within their mist, I have seen no Canadian Geese that are found frequently in the northwest area in huge flocks.
 Swans are very territorial and will become very aggressive when geese are present.

Then in a moment.... they are in flight..... I am stunned and watch in amazement as they fly in formations until they are gone. 

Then I realize that I have been so busy watching them.... I forgot to take pictures of them in flight.

I feel exhilarated to have seen them, yet saddened that they are gone so quickly.  It was wonderful to be but a fly on their wall and experience them in their environment. It is clear to me they are very intentional in staying at faraway ponds and lakes and have not become accustomed to contact with humans. 

I travel along the bluff while returning back to the main trail...

One last treat is the sighting of a beaver pond.

No sign of the 'homeowner' and with the light beginning to wain I can't wait for his return.

My hip is beginning to protest.  Walking on uneven ground has taken it's toll today,  but I am a happy camper!!  I found my swans and enjoyed a great hike in the nature that I love....

What's not to love ! ? !


  1. Wow, what a treat! It looks like a great way to spend the day and the swans are beautiful.

  2. Success! What a great day it sounds like. You saw lots of evidence of other wildlife so I'm sure glad you got to see the swans and show them to us. I wonder why people go hiking if all they are going to do is chatter away and scare off anything they might see. They could as well walk around a city block and get the same exercise and socializing.

  3. You finally got your view. The first time you see something out in nature is the best thing ever. So happy for you.
    The fall colors that still linger there make is so beautiful to look at.
    Thank you again for sharing your finds with us.