Trumpeter swan makes a rare appearance at Rose Valley Lake
Last Saturday I awoke to a text saying that a friend had found a trumpeter swan at Rose Valley Lake. This species is rare enough in our area that a serious birder knows to skip breakfast and get to the lake as quickly as possible, or risk not getting the species for the yearly county list.
I rushed to the lake and found the swan sitting on the water. After watching it for only a few minutes, three bald eagles flew near it while fighting over a fish, and the swan took flight. We watched it fly to the south end of the lake, then take off to the west.
About 10 minutes later, we heard the swan calling and spotted it flying high over the lake. A short while later, we spotted it again and watched it fly out of sight to the east. It was not seen again the rest of the day.
A trumpeter swan reintroduction program was launched in Ontario in 1982. As part of this effort, swans are given leg bands and yellow wing tags, allowing each individual to be recognized from a distance, and family records are kept.
This swan had wing tags M78. A little searching revealed that the bird was a male born in May 2013 in Burlington, Ontario, and nicknamed Harvey.
Harvey had been in Germantown, Maryland, since November 2014 and was seen there the evening before, meaning that he had flown about 150 miles overnight.
There are two previous records of trumpeter swan in Lycoming County. Trumpeter swan M05, nicknamed Roquefort, was seen on the Susquehanna River near the Muncy boat launch from August to October 2014.
Trumpeter swan L55, nicknamed Lassie, stayed near the Williamsport dam from August to October 2015. Like Harvey, Lassie also spent an extended amount of time in Maryland before visiting us. Lassie has spent this winter at LaSalle Park in Burlington, Ontario.
Trumpeter swans are the largest species of waterfowl in the world, with wingspans that can exceed 10 feet. They can weigh over 25 pounds.
An interesting fact about trumpeter swans is that they incubate their eggs with their huge webbed feet.
In addition to the trumpeter swan, we also saw a group of eight tundra swans, a smaller species that regularly migrates through the area in large flocks.
Waterfowl migration still is in full swing, and I saw over 20 species of ducks, geese and swans at the lake that day.
The lake is mostly thawed and will probably remain open through the spring.
Now is a great time to go birding at lakes and the West Branch Susquehanna River to see waterfowl, gulls, ospreys and more. The next two months are the peak of bird activity, so get outside and see what you can find.
Brown is an avid local birder and photographer and is vice president of the Lycoming Audubon Society. He may be reached via email at davidebrownpa @gmail.com.
The Lycoming Audubon Society is a chapter of the National Audubon Society with responsibility for members in Lycoming and Clinton counties. Information about the society and events can be found at http://lycomingaudubon. blogspot.com. The public is invited to share local sightings and join discussions at https://www.facebook.com/groups/lycomingAudubon.