Friday 11/16 – The swans are starting to come back. Ten here today.
Previous post from 2009:
As of December 27, 2009, 100+ trumpeter swans are back at Magness Lake, a 30-acre oxbow off Little Red River east of Heber Springs, Arkansas. Best viewing is probably an hour or two (if you want to see them flying – awesome) before sunset. Be sure to take some shelled corn.
During the winter of 2008-09, the final number of birds was upwards of 130. The winter visits of the huge birds are a unique event and have attracted attention nationwide.
Why Heber Springs? Why Arkansas?
Trumpeters normally don’t come anywhere near this part of the nation. Sizeable numbers of them live in Alaska and smaller numbers in Wyoming and other western states. Intensive restocking programs, though, are increasing the numbers of trumpeters in Minnesota and a few other upper Midwest states, and these birds occasionally spend winters in northern Missouri. But for more than a decade a few trumpeters have wintered a few miles east of Heber Springs.
Perry Linder of Heber Springs, who formerly owned the land and lake where the swans live for three or more months each year, said, “When the first three trumpeters showed up speculation was a severe storm had forced the big birds well south of their wintering area. But they apparently like the Cleburne County countryside and have returned yearly since, always to Magness Lake. Slowly their numbers increased to about 20 birds in the past few years, then the fall of 2001 brought the largest number yet.
Many of the swans at Heber Springs are white, the sign of adult swans. Some are a dusky gray-brown, sometimes mottled with white; these are the youngsters. They become pure white when they are fully-grown, although the youngsters are nearly as big in body size.
Trumpeter swans aren’t easily confused with snow geese, another waterfowl with predominant white color tipped with some black. A trumpeter swan is huge compared to a snow goose. Trumpeters have wingspans of nearly eight feet and weigh up to 30 pounds; a snow goose has a 4 ½-foot wingspan and weighs about six pounds. Hunting of swans isn’t allowed in Arkansas. Hunters need only to keep the size of the birds in mind. There’s no way they can be mistaken for snow geese.
DIRECTIONS: To view the swans, drive east on Arkansas Highway 110 from its intersection with Arkansas highways 5 and 25 just east of Heber Springs. Go 3.9 miles from the intersection to Sovereign Grace Baptist Church, marked with a white sign. Turn left on paved Hays Road; the road sign is very small. Magness Lake is about a half-mile down Hays Road. Or: Go north from Pangburn about 10 miles on Hwy 110.
Visitors can view the swans from a public road, with parking space available in an S curve of the road. Shelled corn is the only recommended feed. Chances of seeing numbers of the trumpet swans are best in late afternoons. During the day, they roam around in small groups, feeding in spots sometimes miles away. But they return to the lake before dark. A few of the swans usually hang around the lake during midday, too.
Magness Lake covers only 30 acres with the trumpeter swans sharing the space with Canada geese, a number of mallards and a few assorted other ducks, along with some domestic geese. The majestic birds have adopted this small oxbow lake near the Little Red River as their winter home. They’ve been doing it for more than a dozen years now, starting with three birds and growing in numbers each year. Currently 134 trumpeters are on hand.
Trumpeter swans were once more common in the central and eastern parts of the nation. But it was over a century ago when they were last recorded in Arkansas before they discovered Magness Lake. This is the most southern location of any trumpeter swans that have been discovered in a number of decades. The trumpeters stay around Magness Lake until early March, then they head back to Minnesota.
E & W Wildlife Refuge
Dick Herget, Mgr. 501-362-7161
544 Hays Rd., Heber Springs AR
Mute swan at Magness Lake (Spring – 2007)
Hunters participating in Arkansas’s Light Goose Conservation Order are urged to be careful not to accidentally shoot trumpeter swans.
Karen Rowe, nongame migratory bird program leader with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, said, “Increasing numbers of trumpeter and tundra swans are wintering in Arkansas, and some young trumpeter swans brought here last year from Iowa have lived in Arkansas year-round.
Goose hunters need to be aware that these swans may be almost anywhere in the state. They roam around Arkansas quite a bit in their daily activities. We have had reports of tundras and trumpeters winter in extreme northwest Arkansas down to the southeastern part of the Delta. ”
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Light Goose Conservation Order extends hunting for snow and Ross’s geese until April 30. The term light goose includes snow geese and Ross’ geese.
Concern about the swans arose after the killing of five trumpeter swans in central Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation said some hunters failed to properly identify their targets and killed five of the swans, apparently mistaking them for snow geese.
Other hunters witnessed the shootings and alerted conservation agents, who confiscated the birds as evidence. A February court date has been set for the resulting cases.
Trumpeter swans bear only a superficial resemblance to snow geese, as the swans are several times larger than snow geese. Trumpeter swans are all white. Snow geese have black wing tips.
Trumpeter swans are the largest birds native to North America. Adult males measure 57 to 64 inches long and weigh around 25 pounds. Adult females range from 55 to 60 inches and weigh approximately 20 pounds. Their wingspans can approach 8 feet, and they fly with their extremely long necks outstretched.
About 5,000 trumpeter swans live in the Midwest area of the United States, most of them in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan with some moving south into Missouri.
Biologists studying swans in northern state often mark swans with colored collars with alpha numeric codes. Observers should note the exact location of collared swans, and write down the number and letter code off the collar and send that information to Rowe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because it can be difficult to tell the difference between tundra and trumpeter swans in the field, the public is encouraged to visit http://www.trumpeterswansociety.org/id.htm to learn the key differences in bill shape and other physical characteristics of these two species.