2017: Missouri – “Trumpeters of the Riverlands.”


Earlier this Spring, I tuned into a PBS special, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” In the 1920’s George Melendez Wright raised awareness to the plight of the Tule Elk and Trumpeter Swan in Yellowstone National Park. In 1929 Wright did something about his concerns by initiating a wildlife survey program (which he himself funded) for the national parks then extant in the United States. In 1930 he became the first chief of the wildlife division of the U.S. National Park Service, and under his leadership, each park started to survey and evaluate the status of wildlife and to identify urgent problems. Recommendations for restoration were generated, and special attention was paid to rare and endangered species, conflicts, and sources of problems. This formative work led to recommendations that were published in 1932 as Fauna of the National Parks of the United States, a Preliminary Survey of Faunal Relations in National Parks, which became the first of the important “Fauna” series – publications detailing the results of surveys and research, and recommending various management procedures to maintain natural conditions in protected areas.

I was so inspired by the Trumpeter Swan story of George Melendez Wright, that I added a reminder to let me know when this species would start showing up in my area. Trumpeter Swan species were nearly extirpated in the early 1900s due to hunting and demand for their feathers.

There are three species of swans in North America. The Trumpeter (Cygnus buccinator) and Tundra (Cygnus. columbianus) are indigenous, while the Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) is a Eurasian species that has been introduced and now breeds in the wild in some areas. All three are very large all-white birds. The male swan is called the Cob. He typically weighs more and looks larger than the female (the Pen). Young-of-the-year swans are called Cygnets; not as white as the adults.

Trumpter Swans Dec 2017
Adult on the Right, Cygnet on the left.

I live approximately some 21 miles away from the Audubon Center at Riverlands (Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary) in West Alton, MO. I have yet to truly explore the rich bounty area. The Riverlands is a part of the Mississippi Flyway. In the numerous articles and references I’ve read, there are an estimated 325 bird species which embark on the round-trip migration each year along the Mississippi Flyway.

Listed below are some of the migratory birds, which I photographed, that frequent the Mississippi Flyway during winter or as they are migrating further south.

These birds fly from their breeding grounds in Canada and the northern United States to their wintering grounds along the Gulf of Mexico and in Central and South America.

The majority of North American land birds that come south through the Mississippi Flyway take the shortcut across the Gulf of Mexico by way of Texas or the Antilles seeking winter refuge in the tropics. During the height of migration, some of the islands off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas are wonderful observation places. I am planning a future trip to visit the Cypress Island Preserve in Louisiana.

We had one special visitor to the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary this Winter.

Female Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus )
In winter, look for Snowy Owls along shorelines of lakes and the ocean, as well as on agricultural fields and airport lands. Snowy Owls breed in the treeless arctic tundra.

Until the next adventure and thank you for stopping by!

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