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#472 Trumpeter swans and being neighbourly

My birding knowledge is abysmal so I make good use of some reference books friends gave me. On Sunday they proved invaluable.

Robin and I were walking back from the last pancake breakfast at the nearby seniors’ centre. (The city has built a new one – beyond easy walking range for those of us living downtown.)

Suddenly a flock of white birds flew overhead. “Snow geese!” I cried. It looked as if they were landing on the marsh so I ran upstairs, grabbed my camera, ignored the cold wind, and headed out to photograph them.

Alas, they were not in the marsh. They were in the reeds north of there, beside a beach the public has no easy access to.

This time of year a lot of beach houses sit empty. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get closer to the birds so walked through the yard of the nearest vacation rental and out to the beach.

My reward was doubled when a man walked toward me. He lives in the row of beach houses and wondered if I was renting there. We ended up having a long chat about birds.

He has lived in that beautiful spot for fifteen years. He watches the migrating flocks rest in the bay and move on. Pelicans passed through in September. Now the white birds have arrived. (He figured they were likely swans, not geese.) Soon the eagles will be fishing the bay’s waters.

We had a wonderful conversation. That block of beach houses, whose backs face the street, suddenly seemed friendlier. I photographed the birds and came back to our warm condo, happy to have seen the glorious white creatures and to have met a neighbour.

I was wrong about the birds. They are Trumpeter Swans, a species well suited to Canada. They can handle temperatures as low as -30 C. They overwinter here the Okanagan Valley, where such temperatures are rare.

If nothing more than seeing those birds had happened today, I would end the day full of gratitude. Trumpeter Swans were nearly hunted to extinction because of their feathers, down and skin. Their habitat was appropriated for human activity.

Now they are back. They’ll share the lake with us this winter, and that gives me hope.


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