With a blast of cold arctic air laying over the Pacific Northwest I knew it would be a chilly morning for a sunrise adventure into the Bob Heirman Wildlife Refuge, but when my friend and fellow nature photographer, Mark Horner advised me there was a huge flock of trumpeter swans wintering over in Shadow Lake… Well, what else could I do?
Ok, it wasn’t actually 16 degrees. I learned later that it was really only 14 degrees, but the air was still and the skies were cobalt blue. A perfect day for photography and videos.
This beautiful wildlife refuge is only a few miles from my back door, and the name Bob Heirman may be familiar to anyone who’s been following along for a while. Mr. Heirman is an author and life long fisherman. He has been a mover and shaker in Snohomish County wildlife conservation for decades. Susan and I actually met Bob Heirman, in the flesh, one day quite by accident… You can search back in the archives if you’re interested in that tale.
It was only a short little walk down to the lake, but it sounded like I was stomping on potato chips the whole way. The reed grass was frozen and crunched with every footstep. The noise was thundering considering I was trying to sneak up on a pond full of waterfowl. Thankfully the swans didn’t seem to mind because they were contently honking away as I settled in for a chilly breakfast of cold bagels and creme cheese.
Here is a little conservation success story for you. A while back I was checking out an old birding field guide that I’d had for many years. When I looked up trumpeter swans it listed them a very rare, just back from the brink of extinction. They were said to be slightly increasing in Yellowstone Park and rarely seen during the winter on the west coast. The publish date on that field guide was 1966. Yep, I’ve been a bird geek for a long time.
Well I’m happy to report two facts to you. #1 – I have bought several newer field guides since 1966. #2 – These days trumpeter swans, along with snow geese, are counted by the tens of thousands on their summer nesting grounds in Siberia, and number in the thousands during the winter here, just in Western Washington alone.
Well I had a wonderful breakfast with the swans. The only difficulties to report from the cold were clumsy fingers and a wicked drain on the camera batteries. I moved around to a few different locations along the shore, hoping to get the swans flying up in front of the snowy mountains.
Of course I made a little video for your enjoyment:
I hope you liked that as much as I liked filming it. Once again let me throw a shout out to Mark Horner for putting me onto these guys. My usual place for swans and snow geese is up on the Skagit River delta. If you would like to see some more beautiful trumpeter swan and snow geese videos have a look at Mark’s YouTube channel, Beyond 90 Seconds.
Now to get under my fuzzy blanket and try to get my core temperature back up a few degrees.
Ok, stick a fork in me! I’m done.