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24 Swans A’Swimming!

December 24, 2019

One of the joys of the winter season at Lakedale is the arrival of our very special seasonal guests… the Trumpeter Swan Clan. Looking out at Neva Lake right now, there are 24 swans a’swimming, their magnificent white plumage a brilliant contrast to the dark lake and trees. I’ll often stop what I’m supposed to be doing to watch their graceful spins around the lakes, and don’t get me started about the majesty of seeing them take flight. If you’re as captivated with the swans as we are, we thought you’d enjoy some fun facts about the clan!

Big Bird details…

The Trumpeter Swan is the largest living species of waterfowl, weighing on average 25 pounds and stretching to 6 feet in length (males) and making them one of the heaviest living birds capable of flight. Their wingspan is an amazing 6-8 feet and they need 100 feet of “runway” to be able to take off.  Adult swans are all white in plumage, while cygnets have light gray feathers and pink legs, not turning completely white until they are a year old. The swan’s black beak is twice as long as the beak of a Canada goose and is the largest of any waterfowl.

Why are they called Trumpeter Swans?

Have you ever heard a trumpet blaring? Well that’s what our swans sound like when they are chatting with each other, or loudly screaming at the kids to stop flying around and come forage in the lakes for dinner, or just kibitzing while paddling over to check out who’s catching fish at the dock.

Why do the swans come to Lakedale?

Our swans are migratory birds (some species of Trumpeter Swans are not) who spend their spring and summer seasons breeding on wetlands in remote areas of Alaska and Canada. Their preferred habitats are lakes, ponds, large rivers and coastal bays, but the most important requirements are that the habitats have open water, access to food and protection from disturbance, all of which we have at Lakedale in abundance! While the swans don’t call for reservations in advance, we can usually expect them to arrive for the months of November, December and January. Fortunately for our housekeeping team, they require no changes of linens.

Does Mary Ann feed the swans?

When I asked Mary Ann, our Director of Edibles, what she fed the swans, she rolled her eyes and went back to baking a delicious batch of brownies for our other guests, leaving me to do further research with my handy binoculars. The Trumpeters spend most of their time feeding while swimming, upending their large bodies and grazing with their very long necks on leaves and stems of aquatic plants like pondweeds, eelgrass, rushes, or duckweed found in the lakes. They paddle their large, webbed feet into the muddy substrate to loosen tubers and roots from the lake bottom. In winter, they broaden their vegetarian diet to include plants, berries and grains found on the shore. Feeding occurs day and night and increases in frequency as the birds prepare to “stage” for migration.

Do Trumpeter Swans nest at Lakedale?

When the swans leave us in late winter, they return to their northern breeding grounds. Trumpeter Swans form long-term bonds between 2-4 years of age but don’t usually nest until they are 4-7 years old. The mating pair will build their nest on a site surrounded by water, usually less than 600 feet from shore on an existing foundation like a beaver dam, small island, man-made platform or floating vegetation. They may use the same site year after year. When the cygnets are hatched after an incubation period of 32-27 days, they are self-sufficient almost immediately and can fly at the age of 3-4 months. Since the cygnets are born in their northern breeding grounds, we aren’t home to their nests, although an interesting fact about Trumpeter Swans is that they warm their eggs by covering their eggs with their webbed feet!

Can our human guests see the swans?

An emphatic yes! You’ll be able to spot these beautiful creatures from our newly remodeled lodge rooms, from the log cabins or by taking a quiet walk around our 82 acres of winter loveliness…which you’ll have all to yourself! Come join us in the quiet season and meet our Trumpeter Swan clan!