Rodger Hunter, Cowichan Watershed Board, October 20, 2010
Sounds like corn, ballpoints and rings but they are the names for male, female and young trumpeter swans. The celebration is for the return of these majestic, graceful waterbirds to their Cowichan wintering grounds.
Trumpeter Swans are all about family and tradition. Adults normally mate for life and family units generally remain intact for the first year. The cygnets learn traditions associated with nesting, migration routes, wintering places, and food resources from their parents.
Some Trumpeter Swan facts
• Largest waterfowl species in Canada
• Males average 12 kg; females 10 kg
• Wing span up to 3 metres.
• Cygnets can be distinguished by grey plumage and yellowish legs/feet
• Live up to 35 years in captivity but average less than 12 years in the wild.
They are larger than our other native swan (the Tundra –previously the Whistling swan). Their song is deeper and more varied than the Tundras’ because of an extra bend in the Trumpeters’ windpipe. Tundras may have yellow between their eye and their nostril. Trumpeters don’t. Trumpeters are also less wary than Tundras.
The Cowichan estuary is critical habitat for the Trumpeters in some winters. Swans depend on it for survival when snow and ice accumulate on inland fields and wetlands. The tidal activity at the estuary keeps habitats accessible for feeding during those harsh times.
So what about the celebration? Last year the Somenos Marsh Wildlife Society started what it intends to become an annual festival to celebrate the Return of the Swans. Traditionally the end of October, early November is the time that the majestic trumpeters return to the Cowichan from their northern breeding grounds. Last year about 120 people enjoyed the masquerade dance and silent auction at the Quw’utsun’ Cultural Centre to celebrate the swans’ return. Ironically the band that played was called Tuber. Tubers of aquatic plants are a favourite food of trumpeter swans. Swans actually do a little dance on top of the tubers to make it easier to get them out of the mud.
The 2010 version of this new Cowichan Valley tradition continues on Saturday October 23rd at the Cultural Centre – same place, same band plus more. Wildlife/nature themed costumes are encouraged. Tickets are $25 each and judges will award prizes for costumes. This is an important fund-raiser for the Marsh Society. If you aren’t into foliage, fur or feathers you can dress down. There are tours planned for Sunday so please see www.somenosmarsh.com to find all of the festival info.
And, what do you call a group of young swans that are standing in a circle? A cygnet ring I suppose.
For more information about the Cowichan Watershed Board, please contact
Rodger Hunter, Co-ordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 250-710-7139.