Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter Guests

We have special visitors in Arkansas during the winter months. Visitors that normally don't come this far south. Every winter trumpeter swans have chosen Magness Lake and the region near Heber Springs as their winter home. Although trumpeter swans are common in the mid and northwest portions of the United States, they typically do not venture any further south than Colorado, so this is quite a treat for us.

In 1990 three swans showed up at the lake. It's believed they were blown off their normal course by a large storm. Anyway, they liked it here and return each year bringing their extended family. What began as a small group of three, now numbers from 500 to 1,000 on several lakes in Arkansas. Numbers have increased until this has become the largest and most consistent wintering flock of Trumpeters in the southern U.S.

Trumpeter swans at the largest waterfowl in North America weighing about 35 pounds and having a wing span of eight feet. That is HUGE!

They are so beautiful; the epitome of grace. I watched as they peacefully and quietly floated on the lake and then they began to HONK! Not the delicate sound I was expecting, but a loud trumpet-like honk. They made me laugh. As families of swans came near other families, they chatted. All of them honking at the same time carrying on some type of conversation.

Adult male swans, know as cobs and females, know as pens, are snowy white except for their beaks and feet. The young, know as cygnets have more brown coloring.

The lake is also full of ring-necked ducks. They're cute to watch. They seem so small compared to the swans, but they're about 17" long. In the image below do you see the duck on the left that looks like there's a stick coming out of his head? He's actually standing on a tree stump that's right below the surface of the water. He'd jump up there sit a while, jump off, swim around the stump, and then jump back up on it. The ripples of water on the right is where one of the ducks just dove deep in the water. They stay under for a surprising amount of time.

At times fifty or more of these ducks would take off at once. It was amazing to hear they're wings and their feet splashing the water as they lifted. And just as amazing to hear them land again. When a large group landed they sounded like the whirring of a mini helicopter.

I was in the car ready to leave when a group of swans came soaring toward the lake. It was an incredible sight to see the huge fowl shooting like arrows through the sky, necks extended toward the lake. They flared their wings and gracefully landed in the water. Seriously breathtaking!

I had a lovely day visiting some lovely winter guests.


  1. Lovely images of the swans and the ducks, Cathy. How lovely to come and visit the lakes in Arkansas. Water birds always have a special sort of grace about them. I love to observe them also. I love your third shot very much as if the swan is posing for you. So nicely captured! Have a beautiful weekend.

  2. I always learn something when I read your blog. It was a good day because the weather was just right to spend time with the Swans.

  3. This was fun to read, Cathy! I remember seeing swans for the first time when I went to England. I'd only read about them in books, and it was so amazing to see them for real, swimming freely in seemingly every pond and stream.

  4. What lovely photos of those magnificent birds, Cathy! And thanks for sharing your swan knowledge :)

  5. They are graceful birds indeed. Your are apparently Trumpter Swans. - There are also swans known as Mute Swans which we have in our local Pary Aviary. - I've never seen a swan in the wild though, I bet it is a real treat.

  6. It seems we have had more swans stick around here this year than in recent years.


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