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Gardening For Wildlife #58 This past week & Trumpeter Swans
March 10, 2008

Welcome new readers.

Yes, birds, wildlife and wildlife gardening are the main topics. However, as time goes on you will learn about me and happenings around here.

I try to look at things with a positive point of view and I hope you will too.

You may get a positive quote from time to time and always a positive ending to the letter.

Hey, we are bombarded with bad and negitive news all the time. I think we all could hear some good news, don't you?

Stick around and enjoy.

I'm Pumped.

Daylight savings time is here and I now have an extra hour of daylight to enjoy on the evening side.

A bonus on top of that, we missed out on two major winter storms this past week. Sorry Ohio, Indiana and other regions.

Our temperatures are still 15 to 20 degrees below normal, but we have enjoyed some much needed sunshine.

The sun is now high enough in the sky to melt some of the snow pack and I'll take that.

Upon Karen's (wife) urging, the grill was stoked up for the first time this year.

Only hamburgers, but I gotta admit it...........

They sure tasted good.

Ziggy the poodle pup had his last series of shots Thursday (for now). He weighs in at 6.2lbs.

The next time he sees the Vet will be to get snipped, probably in April some time. Akita (Keet) will have her heartworm test as well.

In some places where the snow has melted, I see leaves of daffodil that managed to poke through. the frozen earth and all the snow that was once mounded on top of them.

Are you noticing the birds that hang out during the cold winter months are getting more active?

Cardinals, Woodpeckers, Sparrows, Doves and the like.

My cardinals are starting to chase each other around. Soon I will be down to one dominant pair.

Sometimes if you have feeders in the front and backyards, you can get a couple of pair during breeding season.

Structures like your house, often work as boundry lines for territorial rights.

Mourning doves are showing some spark too.

Watching birds and other critters do their sparking and courting is so cool to watch.

Longer days stir up the hormones and desires.

Romance is wonderful, but I don't miss those days to much (to many heart aches).

Migration continues as many of you are reporting sights of migrating birds and some of you show concerns because of the winter weather.

It is all part of nature and survival of the fittest.

Red-winged blackbirds and American robins arrived here is Southwest, Michigan this past week. By Friday the Red-wings were at my feeders.

Birds go by length of day, not so much the weather. Bad weather may slow them down for a day or two, but the urge to move on is to strong in most cases and sometimes birds will starve to death if insects and other food sources aren't available.

Sometimes we can offer meal worms, raisins and even dog food, but it works only if they feed from it.

March is a difficult time for all birds.

Nature's winter food supplies are reaching critical levels and birds are becoming more active. It is so important to keep feeders filled with high energy feed and seed.

Besides sunflowers, suet, peanuts and Nyjer, you may want to add some clean, crushed eggshell with your feed or in a separate dish.

Eggshell makes a wonderful grit that birds need, but also is an important form of calcium that egg laying moms need for strong and healthy eggs they will be laying.

Be sure to clean and nuke the shells first.

Are your house plants in need of a pick me up?

Add 2 table spoons of Epsom salts to a gallon of water next time you water your plants.

Epsom salts is Magnesium Sulfate.

Magnesium and Sulfur are both macro-nutrients required for a lush green plant.

Epsom salts also works wonders on roses, tomatoes and a host of other plants.

Did you have snow for any length of time this winter?

If you did or do, you may notice some white to pink moldy looking stuff on your lawn as the snow melts.

Do not be alarmed.

It is called snow mold and causes no harm to your lawn.

Now, lawn service companies and some garden centers may tell you otherwise and try to sell you some magic chemical, but all you will be doing is throwing your money away.

The best thing you can do is just rake it and maybe put a very small amount of extra lawn food on it.

Even if you ignore it, it will go away and that patch will come back nice and green.

I had other plans for this letter but they took a back seat for now.

I must share with you a very special treat that was shared with me by Diane near Princeton, New Jersey

Pictures of a special "Trumpeter Swan"

Thank You Diane for sharing and allowing me to share with everyone here.

Diane's swan hung around for a few days. Long enough for her to contact her local Audubon Chapter.

She was able to find out that Her swan was is a female from a special hatch In Ontario, Canada. Part of a program to re-introduce these large waterfowl into our wild.

The bird is so used to humans, that Diane was able to hand feed her.

Notice the Yellow tag on the bird's wing.

Here is some info on Swan #063. E-mailed to Diane.

This bird is an old friend; she first was reported at Greenwood Lake in January 2007, was taken to rehab at the Raptor Trust in July 2007, then released at Duke Farms in August of that year. She was also seen recently in South Brunswick in company of an untagged swan. She hatched in Ontario and was released as part of a reintroduction project. I'm amazed to learn she was in Rocky Hill last month (a mile from my house) and I never knew it.

The NJ records committee has not yet added Trumpeters from the Ontario project to the state list, since they are not yet considered an established species, but we're tracking and collecting data on them.

I wrote about Trumpeters a couple of years ago, but this warrants another go at it.

As you may have guessed. this week is about Trumpeter Swans

Trumpeter Swan (Cygnus buccinator)

The Trumpeter Swan is the largest waterfowl species native to North America and largest swan in the world.

Once fairly common throughout most of the northern United States and Canada. Market hunting and the millinery trade rapidly depleted nesting populations during the 19th century.

By 1900, it was widely believed that the species had become extinct.

Fortunately, a small nonmigratory population survived in the remote mountain valleys of Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming. Two nests were found in Yellowstone National Park in 1919; and in 1932, 69 Trumpeters were documented in the region.

This led to the establishment of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in 1935. Red Rock Lakes is located in Montana's Centennial Valley and is part of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem.

In the 1950's several thousand Trumpeters were also discovered also in remote parts of Alaska and Canada.

The Trumpeter swan is a majestic bird, with snowy white feathers; jet-black bill, feet, and legs; and 8-foot wingspan. At close range, a thin orange-red line can be seen on the lower part of the bill.

Trumpeter swan habitat includes riverine wetlands (wetland areas associated with rivers); lakes, ponds, and marshes; open wooded regions; and prairies. In winter, they can be found on tidal estuaries.

Trumpeter swans establish life-long mates at approximately 3 years of age and nest the following year. Sometime between late March and early May, they build their nests, choosing locations close to the water, either on shore, small islands, or muskrat and beaver lodges.

The male (called a cob) gathers nest material, uprooting marsh plants such as cattails, sedges, bulrushes, and horsetail, and brings them to the female (called a pen) for placement.

The nest mound, which takes about 2 weeks to build, reaches a diameter of 6 to 12 feet and an average height of 18 inches. The same nest site may be used for several years.

Once the nest is complete, the pen lays one 12 oz. egg every other day (ouch) until she has a full clutch, usually from 3 to 9 eggs.

The pen spends an average of 35 days incubating the eggs while the cob stays nearby to defend the nest against intruders or predators.

When they hatch, the downy young (called cygnets) are grayish with pink bills and weigh about 1/2 pound each. Although able to swim immediately, they usually stay in the nest for at least another 24 hours.

Newly hatched cygnets feed mainly on aquatic insects and crustaceans. At about 5 weeks of age, their diet changes to include more vegetation.

By the age of 2 to 3 months, their diet is basically the same as that of the adults. The tubers of duck potato and sago pondweed are important foods for Trumpeter swans.

They also feed on the stems, leaves, and seeds of other aquatic plants.

Trumpeter swans use their strong webbed feet to dig into the pond or lake bottom for roots, shoots, and tubers, then plunge their heads and necks underwater to eat what they've dug up.

In deeper water, they tip up completely (all you see is a bobbing swan butt) to snap off the leaves and stems of plants growing. underwater. Their heads and necks are often stained a rusty color from feeding in ferrous (containing iron) waters.

The babies grow rapidly. By 8 to 10 weeks of age, young Trumpeters have reached half their adult size and are fully feathered. They retain their gray juvenile plumage until the second winter.

Average age at first flight is 14 to 17 weeks in Alaska and 13 to 15 weeks in other areas of their range (some of the cygnets may not survive to flight stage).

Trumpeter swans fly with their long necks and legs fully extended, rather than tucked. They swim with their necks erect,

Adults can live to a ripe old age of up to 30 years.

Most Trumpeters weigh 21-30 pounds, although large males may exceed 35 pounds. The male is called a cob; the female is called a pen. With a wingspan over 7 feet, these snow-white birds are truly spectacular.

Standing on the ground, an adult Trumpeter stands about 4 feet high.

Sometimes confused with other swans there are distinct differences.

The Tundra Swan (Cygnus columbianus) has a 6 to 7-foot wingspan, weighs 13-20 pounds, and stands about 3 feet tall.

Both species are white with a black bill.

A swan in its first year is called a juvenile or cygnet. Juvenile Trumpeter and Tundra Swans are grayish.

Tundra cygnets are more silver gray than the darker Trumpeter cygnets, which are sooty gray in the head and neck areas. Swan cygnets do not become all white until about a year old. In their first summer,

Trumpeter and Tundra Swan cygnets have pink bills with black tips. The bills turn all black during the first winter.

One notable difference between these two species is the head and bill profile. The Tundra's bill is slightly dish-shaped or concave and is smaller in proportion to its smoothly rounded head.

The bill of the Trumpeter appears heavy and somewhat wedge-shaped in proportion to its large angular head, similar to the head profile of a Canvasback duck.

Other field characteristics of the Tundra Swan include a distinct yellow spot in front of the eye on about 80 percent of the birds.

In contrast, the Trumpeter Swan has a red border or stripe, like lipstick, on the edge of its lower mandible.

This red border, however, may sometimes appear on a Tundra Swan's bill, and some Trumpeters may have a yellow mark in front of the eye. The best way to distinguish the two species is by their calls.

A third swan species is not native to the Midwest.

The Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is found commonly along the East Coast and is present in parts of the Midwest.

There is a large population in Michigan.

The Mute Swan is a Eurasian bird first introduced by European immigrants. This is the swan that typically is featured in art work and folklore.

Mute Swans are an undesirable exotic species that harass native waterfowl and uproot large quantities of aquatic vegetation. Almost all North American breeding populations of Mute Swans were established by the escape or accidental release of captive birds.

Close to a Trumpeter in size, the Mute Swan is easily distinguished from other swans by its orange bill and prominent black fleshy knob extending from the base of the bill to the forehead.

Mute Swan cygnets have two distinct color phases: the royal phase (brownish) or the Polish phase (white). Unlike Trumpeter and Tundra Swan cygnets, the Mute cygnet has either a dark bill (royal phase) or pinkish bill (Polish phase) during its first summer; the bill turns orange during the first year.

Mute Swans typically hold their necks in an S-curve with the bill pointed downward. Though described as silent, Mutes actually utter a variety of call notes, including grunts and snorts.

Restoration efforts continue in the Great Lakes Region and I've been fortunate enough to see Trumpeter swans at Seney National Wildlife Refuge in Michigan's upper peninsula.

Well, it's time to fly for now.

Again, I was a bit long winded, but I hope you enjoyed this week's letter.

If there is anything you would like to share or have me write about, Just let me know and I'll see what can happen.

Here is your thought for the week.

He is a man of sense who does not grieve for what he has not, but rejoices in what he has......(Epictetus, Roman Philosopher, 55 - 135 AD)

We can rejoice in our smiles.

We can rejoice that we are able to share the wealth of a smile with friends and strangers alike.

Thank the good Lord everyday and remember to smile.

Until next time

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

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Gardening For Wildlife.

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