Newbie readers of these nature columns must think we are swan addicts.
We are! We’ve been virtually famished for the sights and sounds of these elegant birds forever and a day it seems. That’s because we had never experienced the avian species from birth through much of our hundred years. When our families settled the Tyrone area in the 1850s as hunters, gatherers, farmers, we most likely were part of the group whose hunting habits led to the demise of the birds.
The multitudes of beauties became food, fancy dress ornaments, hair pieces and other. During the past twenty years or more, we’ve attempted to atone for those unknowing sins of our ancestors by educating the public as to the ‘wonder of the wide-spread white wings!’ Thus it was some five years ago that we danced (yes, danced) for joy with the repatriation and recovery of the creatures as they assimilated themselves into our area.
One of our state of Minnesota naturalist heroes is and has been a fellow by the name of Carroll Henderson. It was Dr. Henderson, whom we’ve never met but wish we had, that was named the ‘Non-game Wildlife Program Director’ with the MNDNR in 1977. Since then, he and his compatriots, using taxpayer funding, have been responsible for nudging back populations of trumpeters, eagles, loons, peregrine falcons, egrets, etc., etc., etc., the list is practically endless. We owe those gentlepeople so much for their wisdom, leadership and initiative for much wildlife we take for granted.
Yes, five or more years ago, a trumpeter swan pair blasted the many-a-year resident Canada geese out of Coachlight Pond, a tri-ponded area so named for a supper club, a fine-eatery restaurant once located on the shore of the ponds just north of Highway #169 east of Highway #93 between LeSueur and Henderson.
Each year, Sylvia and Sylvan swan have raised a family of youngsters (cygnets) on the pond, braving battling Canada geese, eagles from a nearby aerie, a monster snapping turtle, mink, raccoons, you name it…denizens of the murky waters. Human onlookers and a recently emerging gravel pit close nearby have not deterred their efforts.
Survivors each year have normally been three cygnets, but in May of 2020, after about a month on a former muskrat abode, SIX cygnets appeared, little white puffballs viewing the water world with all its joys and dangers…an historic number of young for the Coachlight waters.
Guarding the cygnets day and night, the doting parents guided the youngsters through five Hwy 93 closings, a rainfall episode of five inches of precipitation, the rising and falling of the water level in the ponds…unscathed until the early Canadian Goose season.
The eight avians disappeared for about a week, and upon just seven returned, stuck to the muskrat estate like stickers on a dog, leaving their former residence briefly just for food, stretching and molting.
Most never think of casualty-causing-enemies of both the Tundra and Trumpeter swans as being electrical power lines. Is there a doubter in the crowd? In March of 2077, a resident of Sibley County, Joe Luskey (Judy,) discovered a Trumpeter swan under such a line in Jessenland Township, Sibley County. Other than a broken neck and a small amount of mammalian damage, the specimen appeared to be salvageable.
Using a Special Purpose Possession permit issued by the MNDNR, the bird was mounted by Dale Selby at his Wildlife Taxidermy studio in Nicollet. The cost of such a project was donated by Conservation Partners of America, an environmental group from the Green Isle area, and presented by officers Jeff Ehrich and Dave Sell to NEY Learning Center east of Henderson.
‘Snap, Crackle, Pop!’ On the first day of January in 2020, an explosion occurred outside the home of Mark and Amy Hardel and family, of Henderson. Lying in the street under the power lines lay … another deceased trumpeter swan. Other than a broken neck, the immature swan flew head-first into the line, knocking out electricity for a bit. Much of the cost of mounting that bird is covered by the Jerry and Danielle Buesgen’s family, of Henderson, and again, will be used for educational purposes. All ages of folks will be able to examine the size and beauty of the creature. (Monies are still needed for this project; donations welcome.)
Winter approaches, and friends ask, “Where will the trumpeters go for the winter?” Answer: to food and water. Many go to Monticello on the Mississippi River, the “Swan City of Minnesota.” Others may be viewed most any direction in Le Sueur, Sibley and Scott counties on fields where corn/bean kernels remain in the fields after harvest. Anyone with sharp eyes may see the ‘wonder birds’ in our immediate area.