January 17, 2022 - Trumpeter Swans


Last Monday, January 10, 2022, I drove around a country road in the way home from work looking for interesting subjects to document. I stopped the truck on the blacktop; and, while scanning the sky, observed a small flock flying from the southeast towards the northwest.


At that moment I wasn't entirely sure of the species. The birds were large like geese, but there was no honking. They flew with straight necks, so I suspected the birds may be sandhill cranes, as I photographed a sandhill crane family in the vicinity (which later moved on the their fall migration) several months before.


Over the past week I honestly forgot about this short interaction, but was elated and blessed to realize that I had photographed a family group of endangered trumpeter swans. Trumpeter swans are the largest native bird species in North America, and not long ago were nearly extinct. There are no records of Trumpeter presently nesting on Central Illinois, but most certainly did prior to the drainage of nearly all the original marshland in Illinois.


I am fortunate to pass by such marshes daily while residing in the Illinois River Valley. The two adults and their five offspring were most certainly not settling down here, but most likely were venturing north during the return leg of their annual migration. In all likelihood they were traveling back to the place of their birth, most likely to Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Ontario.


It was by sheer happenstance that I stopped the truck last Monday, peered across a fallow field, and saw these temporary visitors traveling through. Had I not photographed them with a long, telephoto lens, I never would have known about this special gift. I am curious how frequently other gifts pass by overhead without us knowing, passing through for a moment, and returning to their ancient homelands.


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