Friday, April 16, 2010
Watching Trumpeter swans is one of the treats of visiting Yellowstone, as you'll rarely see one elsewhere; they're not particularly common inside the park, either. Extensively hunted for their plumage during the 19th Century, nearly all the birds in the lower 48 states were exterminated, except for a few dozen that managed to persist in Yellowstone. In Canada and Alaska, only a few thousand survived, so one the species was probably only one nasty disease away from extinction. The situation is a little better now, with the population south of Canada now around 5000, and about 500 of those swans living in the Rocky Mountain region.
For years the most visible swans in Yellowstone were a pair that nested on the Madison River, in the western side of the park, and the occasional hatching of cygnets was a cause for celebration. Most of my swan photos were taken there. The spring of 2004 was the only time I ever spotted a swan on one of the Twin Lakes (south of Mammoth Hot Springs) and I suspect this was a nonresident bird wintering in the park, who soon flew back north for the summer.