bearriver Blog: Get 'em while they're...cold?!

Get 'em while they're...cold?!

Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2012

A Tundra Swan of the Eurasian BEWICK’S subspecies was feeding along with thousands of its best buddies within the auto tour loop today at Bear River MBR in Box Elder County. I viewed the bird from the west leg of the loop, about 1/10 mile south of a pullout with an interpretive sign that reads, "About Midges". The Bewick’s Swan was feeding with others along the closest edge of swans to the road. I estimated it was 50-100 yards away.

I was sweeping the flock for Trumpeters and actually settled on a Tundra Swan with a relatively large yellow lores spot. They attract my attention due to the pop of color. And then the bird behind the Tundra lifted its head and YowZA! Talk about a pop of color. The yellow extended from the bird’s eye to 1/3 to ½ way down its upper mandible looked like a saddle of yellow, but it didn’t reach far enough to get my heart pumping for a Whooper Swan. It fed the whole time I watched it, which was likely 45 minutes or so, routinely spending more time rooting under water than breathing above. It was very difficult to find again if I moved because it fed so consistently under water, and not because it was either far away or obscured by other birds.

I’ve been on a swan tear over the last few days and have visited the southeast unit at Farmington Bay a couple times (walking well south on the dike from the four-way at the end of the dike road), and the refuge today. I hope to find Trumpeters to study and while that hasn’t happened, I’ve recorded nine collar numbers between the two locations to report to the Canadian Wildlife Service. That’s always fun. In addition, a flock of 32 Snow Geese tried to hide behind the big bodies of their also-white cousins, but to no avail; I spied them anyway.

I spent so long with the Bewick’s Swan that I ran out of time to look for the gulls and Eurasian Wigeon Kenny Frisch reported yesterday. Oh, well. I’ll have to be happy with the Eurasian bird that I did see.

Swan viewing on the auto tour loop at Bear River MBR is as good as I’ve ever seen not only due to thousands of birds, but the particular ice/water situation of the moment may support the birds’ habitat preferences in Units 2 and 2A, the two major units that run along the west leg of the loop. As the ice continues to melt and Unit 1, their historic preferred unit north of and outside the loop, becomes fully available, the birds may move there where they’re much more distant and not at all easy to observe. So the moral is: Get ‘em while they’re hot (or cold, as it were).

Kris Purdy

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