February 3, 2015
After teaching class at Bridgewater College* this afternoon, I drove over to Silver Lake on the north side of Dayton, about four miles away. I was intrigued by a recent report of a Trumpeter Swan and a Tundra Swan being seen there, so I figured it was worth a shot. Boy, was it! As soon as I arrived, I counted four swans on the lake, along with a hundred or more other waterfowl. Not being very familiar with either species (about all we ever see in this area are Mute Swans), I thought that they were just two Tundra Swans and two Mute Swans. After looking at my photos back home and comparing them to my field guides, however, I realized that the bird with the all-black bill and sloped forehead was actually a Trumpeter Swan, which is quite rare. Wow! Size is another clue: Trumpeter Swans are bigger than Mute Swans (see second photo below), which in turn are bigger than Tundra Swans. When Birds of Augusta County was last published in 2008, there had been only one record ever of Trumpeter Swans, a species which is found mostly in western states. Another was reported in 2011. As you can see, lighting conditions were almost ideal for taking photos.
Also on Silver Lake today were several dozen Canada Geese and Mallards, a dozen or more Gadwalls (see the Wild birds yearly photo gallery page), several Redheads, a Wigeon, and a possible Canvasback.
I thought the Trumpeter Swan might have been a life bird for me, but after checking my life bird list, it turns out that I saw some in South Dakota in 2008. To my surprise, however, I realized that I had failed to add Tundra Swan to that list after I saw a flock of them on a pond near Bell's Lane last March. So, after making the revision (for a second time), that makes 49 life birds seen last year, bringing my lifetime total up to 457. Maybe I'll finally reach 500 this year!
* More on Bridgewater College soon...