Trumpeter swans. (Photo by Karl Schilling)

An event is planned this weekend called “Soiree  with the Swans” in the southwest Iowa town of Atlantic, where up to a hundred graceful trumpeter swans are gathering on the open water.

Lora Kanning, a naturalist with the Cass County Conservation Department, says the big birds congregate at Lake Number 4 in Atlantic’s Schildberg Recreation Area. Kanning says the swan population is growing in the Midwest.  “We have had very many successful nests in Iowa and Minnesota,” Kanning says. “This is kind of their way, the biologists’ way, of getting a decent count of how successful the babies were to get to this point. So, more successful nests, the more birds there are.”

Trumpeter swans, with their seven-foot wing spans, are not banded for tracking, since efforts to restore the population have been successful, but Iowa State University has a program where a couple of the birds have GPS collars.  “The GPS actually is not as new as you think,” she says. “Just a little bit because of funding and being able to fund the project but it’s, I believe, in its second or third winter for the GPS band.”

Trumpeter swans were declared endangered in 1966. A reintroduction process was started in 1998 and today, the migration flies through Iowa. Atlantic is celebrating 23 years of the trumpeter swans wintering in the community. Kanning says they’ve seen success in the last several years, not only with the increased nesting activity, but also with the swans finding other places in the region to spend the winter.

“Maffitt Reservoir is one of them outside of Des Moines. Atlantic has gotten full and Beamers Pond north of us gets full because of doing so well in population,” Kanning says. “One lake can only hold so many swans and so they have figured out Maffitt Reservoir is another great spot to hang out.”

The Saturday event includes ten-minute talks about swans led by conservation staff every half hour from 11 AM to 2 PM. Visitors will be able to watch the birds through spotting scopes. Hot chocolate, cookies and other snacks will be provided for free with donations being accepted for swan care.

(By Ric Hanson, KJAN, Atlantic)


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