Trumpeter swans make early return to Yukon

Spring is in the air in Yukon, and so are the trumpeter swans. Hundreds have already been counted at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake, a regular rest stop for migrating birds.

Swan count at migratory stopover 'well above average' for late March

Trumpeter swans make their way from southern B.C. and Washington State, to northern Yukon and Alaska each spring. (Jukka Jantunen)

They're a sure sign of spring in Yukon — and like the season, the migrating trumpeter swans seem to be arriving a bit earlier this year.

The last week has seen a growing flock at Swan Haven, a migratory rest stop at M'Clintock Bay on Marsh Lake, south of Whitehorse. 

"Last night, 200 swans were counted, which is well above average for the last couple of days of March," said Scott Cameron, a wildlife viewing technician with Environment Yukon.

"Those strong south winds could be easily blowing in more birds today." 

The shallow M'Clintock Bay is often ice-free earlier than other water bodies in the area, so it becomes a magnet for birds making their way from southern B.C. to summer breeding grounds in northern Yukon and Alaska — swans, but also ducks, geese, and other shorebirds.

"This is a rest spot for them, so they can feed, get some energy back, and this open water is where they do that because they eat plants that grow in it," Cameron said.

The Swan Haven Interpretive Centre, where bird-lovers can see and photograph the massive flocks, opens at the beginning of each April. Swan numbers typically peak in about mid-April, but Cameron said the early arrivals suggest the peak may be earlier, too.

"Every day, we're going to do a count of the swans and every other bird," Cameron said.

The results will be posted on Environment Yukon's website.

The Swan Haven Interpretive Centre opens for the season on Friday, April 1.

with files from A New Day


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