[CT Birds] Trumpeter Swan photos

Frank Mantlik mantlik at sbcglobal.net
Sun Mar 28 22:38:12 EDT 2010

28 March 2010 - 
Thanks to Brian Webster for his phone call late this afternoon, alerting me to two apparent Tundra Swans ("black bills") he discovered on Cranberry Pond in Stratford, CT.  My wife Linda and I were there no more than 15 minutes later, and after studying the swan pair with binoculars and scope, and obtaining a few digital images (despite the raw, gray, and misty weather), it became clear that these appeared to be actually TRUMPETER SWANS.  The first thing I noticed was that both birds lacked the typical yellow 'teardrop' in front of the eyes that Tundra Swans usually show.  A very small percentage of Tundra Swans lack this mark (I have seen some individuals in many trips to Chincoteague, VA).  The second thing I noticed was that these birds showed a very noticeable deep red line on the base of the bill on the cutting edge - a mark typical of Trumpeter.  After further study, and consulting the Sibley Guide, several other field marks led me to be pretty
 confident in the identification.  This included the large and long bill with very straight edges (including the culmen).  The border of the black bill on the side of the face also was quite straight (not curved at the gape as in Tundra).  Also, on the forehead, the white feathers above the top of the bill distinctly appeared to have a pointed shape, rather than a rounded or straight border (the latter more characteristic of Tundra).  
Brian Webster returned, along with Scott Kruitbosch, and we all agreed on these field marks, and with the identification.  I obtained some additional images (Canon 50D with Canon 100-400mm lens), the best of which can be seen here:


A few additional notes.  The swans seemed very tired, with both often sleeping.  But they were definitely wary, raising their heads to watch us.  Both birds lacked any leg bands or wing tags, and showed no signs of captivity.  Trumpeter Swans were (and possibly still are) a federally endangered species. Their normal range includes Alaska, and some scattered other sites such as Yellowstone N.P. in Wyoming.  Reintroduction programs have been ongoing for a number of years to re-expand their range to places like Michigan, Illinois, Ontario, etc. - if I'm not mistaken, I'm straining my memory here, but will check BNA and other online references for accuracy.  There are no accepted records for Trumpeter Swan in CT, though there have been at least two sightings in recent years - one of which was a bird at Stratford's boat ramp (21 May 1999) that was assumed to be one of these reintroduction released birds; the other was a proven escaped immature on Bantam Lake.
  It's anyone's guess as to the origin of these birds, and how the Rare Records Committee may vote on them.

Cranberry Pond (= Cranberry Bog Pond) is located along James Farm Rd. at Stratford's northeast border with Shelton.  It can be easily reached off exit 12 of Route 8 by travelling south on Old Stratford Rd., then second right onto Armstrong Rd., then first left onto James Farm Rd.  A TRAFFIC WARNING!  There is really no safe public place to pull over on this narrow winding road at the vicinity of the Pond.  I can only suggest continuing a bit south on James Farm, and parking on Leo's  Lane on the left, and CAREFULLY walking back up to the pond.
The rainy weather forecast for the next two days may keep these birds here.  Good luck.

Frank Mantlik

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