Thursday, January 28, 2010
A Beautiful Swan Story, Trumpeter Swan Lead Poisoning, End of Year Paperwork
( Photo: 86C is a female Trumpeter Swan that recovered from lead poisoning at REGI three years ago. Her mate died of lead poisoning, on their breeding territory just before she was brought in for rehabilitation. This fall she found a new mate, 56A, who also lost his mate to lead poisoning. 86C has taken on the role of step-mom to youngster, the cygnet 41N. The cygnet's mom died of lead poisoning this summer. )
Soap operas don't only happen on our televisions. The story on the Trumpeter Swan family above is an interesting one and has all the intrigue, despair, compassion and love as any soap opera created in Hollywood. Since this story is true and stars a former REGI patient, we are even more excited. The photo was taken by friend and swan aficionado Barry Wallace, Hudson, WI. I have discussed Barry and his amazing contribution to the Trumpeter Swan population of both WI and MN in an earlier blog posting. If you have not read it, just believe me, he is one terrific person.
The swan wearing the yellow neck collar 86C was a patient at REGI three years ago. She and her mate both had lead poisoning. Her mate died before he could be captured, but 86C survived and was brought to REGI for rehabiliation and released two years ago.
State of Wisconsin Avian Ecologist Pat Manthey e-mailed the following history of the swans in the photo.
" Here's the story. 41N is the son or daughter of 56A. The mother was 24C. She was found dead of lead poisoning mid-summer. In the fall of 2009, 56A found a new mate. The new mate was former REGI patient, 86C, who lost her own mate to lead poisoning, when she herself was poisoned over three years ago. They found each other when 86C had flew into his (56A) nesting pond with several other swans. The site is privately owned beaver pond near Hayward; we call it Chippanazie Lake Beaver Pond. We know all this because the landowner is a close observer of "his" swans. He retrieved the dead 24C so we could get a necropsy, and he observed the new pairing-up of 56A."
I hope you have been able to follow all the references to "numbers". The State of Wisconsin, as well as several other states, uses an alpha numeric system on neck collars of Trumpeter Swans as a way to identify the birds in field situations. That way, it is easy to document the swans' movements, migration and breeding success or failure. Trumpeter Swans were on the Endangered Species list until last fall in our state but are still endangered in several other states.
( Photo: Lead pellets in the digestive system of a Trumpeter Swan. Lead poisoning is a terrible toxin. Swans have access to lead pellets and sinkers that lie on the bottom of ponds and lakes. The swans' method of eating is to strain mud for invertebrates. Tons of lead lie on the bottom on our lakes in this country. The swans are poisoned when they accidentally swallow the lead in the process of eating. It takes a bit of lead the size of a grain of sand to poison a human child. You can see the size of the sinkers and pellets in the x-ray of the swan and can understand why so many die before they are ever found.)
( Photo: Another x-ray of a Trumpeter Swan with lead pellets. They are the light-colored round solid bits in her lower abdomen.)
This week we will be doing several pre-release physicals or "exit" physicals, as I like to call them. This will be the last time we examine the birds before they are free birds once more. Most of those physicals will occur on Saturday because we are releasing the Bald Eagles on Sunday the 31st. However, one will be done on a Trumpeter Swan that has been here since spring. She came in with lead poisoning. It has taken these months until she is ready to take her place in the wild once more.
( Photo: This Trumpeter Swan will be released early next week in Hudson, WI after recovering from lead poisoning at REGI.)
I am finishing the "end of year state and federal reports" today. If you call and find me grumpy...well, I will be.
Send some zen in your thoughts to me today. ( I hate paperwork.)
Marge Gibson © 2010