There are three species of swans that I love to photograph in Ontario and each one has its own unique story to tell.
Trumpeter Swans are the largest waterfowl in North America weighing up to 30 pounds with a wingspan of up to 3 metres. Trumpeters were originally native to Ontario up to the late 1800s, but because of over hunting they totally disappeared from the Ontario scene for almost 100 years. At one point they were threatened with extinction. The reintroduction of Trumpeter Swans in Ontario is a good news story. Thanks to conservation efforts their population increased from zero in the 1980s to between 2500-3000 today. Once very rare, they are now a common sight in the lakes and ponds of Caledon, even within walking distance of my home, where I love to photograph their reflections in the still waters of early morning.
The second swan species found in Southern Ontario is the Mute Swan, called mute because they never emit a sound while flying. I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to Mute Swans. I admire them for their sheer beauty but despise them for their destructive nature. Unlike the Trumpeter Swan, Mutes are not native to Ontario or North America. These swans were brought to Canada by European settlers in the 1870s primarily to adorn parks and private ponds. Some eventually escaped from captivity or were intentionally released and are now considered an invasive species in Ontario. Like typical invasive species, their population is growing steadily, and they feed heavily on water plants reducing the food source for native species. Because of their aggressive nature, they pose a threat to Trumpeter Swans and other native Ontario waterfowl.
Tundra Swans, sometimes called Whistling Swans from the sound their wings make during flight, look very similar to Trumpeter Swans. They are smaller than Trumpeter Swans, but it is difficult to distinguish between them unless you see them together. The way that I identify a Tundra Swan is by examining the base of the beak. They usually have a yellow spot in front of each eye.
Tundra Swans breed in the Arctic tundra. Each year in mid March, I make the trek to Long Point to photograph the flocks of Tundra Swans as they stop off in the corn fields to refuel before resuming their 6000 km. journey to the Canadian Arctic.
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