Skagit Valley Winter
Trumpeter and Tundra Swans spend winters in the fields of the Skagit Valley of Washington State. They have become one of the iconic images of winter here. Just over a year ago, I posted photos of Trumpeters shot from the same spot. This year, the birds were farther from the road, but the group was much larger. The first task was to figure out if these were Trumpeters again or Tundra Swans. For that I severely cropped a photo to get a closeup view:
A flat crown of the head sloping evenly with a straight bill, and the lack of a yellow spot in front of the eye reveals these to be Trumpeter Swans (Cygnus buccinator) once again.
The fields last year were grass covered. This year they are muddy and bare. We had a bit of drought during the summer and fall before the rains came with a vengeance. This may explain the difference.
In the adjacent field just north of this group, there were two more larger gatherings. I estimate there were 200 birds or more altogether. I don't recall seeing such large numbers in past winters. Considering that by the 1930's Trumpeter Swans were considered extinct south of Canada, they have made a remarkable comeback.
If you want to view the spectacle yourself, find them between Burlington and Anacortes south of Highway 20. Look along Best Road between the highway and Chilberg Road past Christianson's Nursery. I have seen them consistently in this area all winter. If you come, please remember your swan etiquette: Park completely off the road, stay off of private property, don't try to approach the birds and keep your dog in the car.