88 Swans

My swan, let us fly to that land
Where your Beloved lives forever.
That land is always soaked in moonlight;
Darkness can never come near it. ~Kabir

Beechwood Farm signYesterday, I attended a training session for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the National Audubon Society.  I’ve been to Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve, headquarters of the Audubon Society of Western Pennsylvania, several times this fall to photograph birds and familiarize myself with the walking trails. Fall and winter are great times to film birds as they are more visible in the bare trees and underbrush. After ninety minutes of classroom training, we set out on the trails to practice identification techniques. Although the air was cold, the sky was a brilliant clear blue studded with a few white clouds and a light coating of snow that reflected the morning light and outlined every tree and branch.

tundra swansAt the end of a delightful walk on which we observed juncos, cardinals, mourning doves, chickadees and a pair of red-tailed hawks, someone spotted a full V of flying swans high in the sky. We had seen a smaller group pass over earlier in a single line but this second group was huge.  True to our training, our guide Gabby studied the birds with binoculars and compared their calls to the bird calls on her Audubon phone app, confirming that they were tundra swans. I later counted 88 swans in the photo of this flying V – a magnificent sight!

Here are a few images of our walk around the lake at Beechwood and a short video from my cell phone of the swans in flight. Enjoy! (All photographs ©2013 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved.)

Here’s a link to the sound of the tundra swan from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They have a higher pitched voice than the Canadian goose, with less of a low honk.

43 thoughts on “88 Swans

  1. Pingback: The Giving Tree | Count the stars of heaven

  2. What a beautiful sight! My first experience with tundra swans has been here on the Eastern Shore where they spend part of the winter. You images are beautiful, and I enjoyed the video. 🙂

    • Sanchita, thank you for stopping by and commenting! You are so right about the importance of helping children connect to nature. Actually, the education staff at Beechwood Farms does a lot of work with school children. While I was there that day, there were several children inside counting birds at the feeder watch and they seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.

  3. Lynn, I loved seeing what you viewed along the trail with the snow. And the video of the swans in formation is very cool. How could you count that many swans in such a short time? Great post!

    • Margie, it was one of those perfect days. I actually had to create a still image from the video in order to count the swans, then I shared it with the people at Beechwood for their records. As close as we could determine there were between 88 and 90 swans – a “wow” moment for sure!

  4. There is nothing more amazing than having ones attention drawn to that v formation high up in the sky. We see sand hill cranes twice a year as they move north and south. Wow indeed.

  5. I looked up the other day and saw an ordinary flock of geese flying in formation and was awed. I can’t imagine seeing a flock of swans. Magnificent!

    Have a very Merry Christmas, my friend, and a truly peaceful and prosperous New Year.

    • Eleanor, I just posted on your site (synchronicity!). I downloaded the Kindle edition of your book and read it last night. I am so in awe of you, a living example of the importance of personal “sass”! I have so many thoughts to share, but for now, a very Merry Christmas and abundant blessings for the New Year!

    • CheyAnne, it is always a pleasure to visit your blog; I love your work! There is probably an Audobon sponsored Christmas Bird Count near you; I learned a lot from the workshop and will probably learn even more when I go out in the field with real bird watchers! Glad you enjoyed the video; it was quite an experience.

  6. So spectacular on the clear, blue sky. I had no idea they fly in such big formations, I’m only used to seeing the Canada geese like this. Maybe a sign of a very good winter for you 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by, diversifolius! I’ve never seen swans here before; our guide said that they were heading to the coast where they overwinter. We’ve already had several early snows here, so it may be a good winter for snowfall. Snow cover is good for the garden, terrible for driving! If we get as much snow this winter as we got rain in the summer, it will be interesting, to say the least. I’m putting snow tires instead of all-season tires on my car later this week – just have that feeling . . .

  7. loved the “wow” in the video. It’s how I often feel in nature “wow”. there’s something particularly lovely about a cold, crisp winter day. So used to seeing geese in flight, somehow never thought about swans in formation like that. What a thrill to have seen them.

    • Joss, I loved that “wow” too – so spontaneous and genuine! I too am used to geese; they pass over our neighborhood all the time, but I’ve never seen swans before. They sound different than geese as well, a higher pitch and not that low honk; I added a link above to their sound at the Cornell Lab.

  8. How fabulous that you happened to see the Tundra swans! And get the pictures! Such a huge V! A gift I know you feel privileged to have seen. They’re so beautiful – they’re one of the pleasures of living out here. I never saw them back east, but I can here, in the winter. I hope you let us know what you see on the CBC. And what you hear! I’d love to know your thoughts about some of the bird calls you hear.

    • It is the first time I’ve ever seen these swans, Lynn, and such a spectacular group! Yes, I hope to report on the CBC around New Year’s. I’m not sure if I will get sound since people tend to chat in groups but I might get lucky; I plan to take my special field mic with me. I may also upgrade my monopod so that I can shoot quality video on the go rather than just still photos.

  9. Glorious! Thank you so much for capturing and sharing this, Lynn. How beautiful. Moved to tears. Just glorious. I hope they have a safe flight. Such blessing!

  10. Amazing! I’ve never seen that many birds of any species in a V, never more than two dozen. Good luck with the Christmas Bird Count! I usually do a small version at home or on the trail in an afternoon.

    • We get Canadian geese flying overhead here quite often but I’ve never seen the swans before. The first flight that went by had about 22 in a single line, but the second V was spectacular! I’m looking forward to the bird count; something new to me.

  11. The swans in flight–that’s quite a sight, Lynn. I’ve never seen that many swans in a flight pattern. (I think the most I’ve seen in flight…a couple of dozen or so Trumpeter Swans.) Thanks for sharing the images and the story.

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