Wintering populations of Trumpeter Swans increasing

PHOTO BY MIKE STEGMANN Trumpeter Swans take off Sand Lake County Park just east of Marshalltown on East Main Street Road. These largest of all Waterfowl have been providing great viewing and photography opportunities at Sand Lake most of this fall and winter months. This latest bout of winter weather may dictate if they migrate to points further south.


Wintering populations of Trumpeter Swans are increasing annually all across Iowa thanks to restoration efforts of the species by wildlife management personnel across the continent.

Throughout this fall and up until recently as many as 20 Trumpeter Swans have been residing at Sand Lake. While they spend much of the day at the lake, the birds will fly to picked corn fields to feed during the mornings and evenings. Although very cold weather tolerant, this latest bout of cold and snowy weather will determine if they migrate to points further south.

Some of these swans might have originated from here in Iowa but additional birds that spend the winter in Iowa are from more heavily populated areas like Minnesota, Wisconsin and Ontario. Trumpeter Swans are a native species historically indigenous to Iowa. During the post-Civil War era, no regulations existed for the harvest of wild game. Market hunting took its toll on many species. Trumpeter Swans were one species that due to over harvest and habitat loss were near extinction during the first portions of the 1900’s. Extirpated from the boundaries of Iowa for nearly 100 years, they are now becoming more common throughout the year.

The Mississippi Flyway restoration efforts of the species began in the mid-1960’s. Iowa began its trumpeter swan restoration program in the 1990’s and the Marshall County Conservation partnered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources at Green Castle Recreation Area in 1997. Those captive birds will raise young that are eventually released into the wild.

Today, more than forty percent, around 27,000 individuals, of North Americas Trumpeter Swan are part of the interior population that ranges from the Rocky Mountains through the Great Lakes. After initial release of free flying birds, the species is now reestablishing wild populations in wetlands across Iowa. In 2016, 50 nesting attempts occurred in the state. Many species including Bald Eagles, Wood Ducks, Giant Canada Geese and Wild Turkeys whose number dwindled in the early 1900’s, have made tremendous population recoveries and are now common place.


This fall, visitors may have noticed that Green Castle Recreation Area was closed temporarily. Crews from the MCCB have been trying to remove beaver that have moved into the park and have caused significant damage to trees. While beaver are an integral part of the natural world they can cause undesired damage in places. MCCB crews will again be attempting to remove the animals form the park which may cause sporadic closures for public safety concerns. Bear with the MCCB if temporary closures occur again through April.


The deadline of Jan. 31 is fast approaching for the Marshall County Conservation Board 19th annual amateur photo contest. Five categories in the adult division include natural resources scenery, native plants, native animals, outdoor recreation (new this year) and open nature. There is a special open class of all the previously mentioned categories for youth 17 and younger.

This contest encourages people to capture natural resource images throughout the year in Marshall County. You can find a complete set of photo contest rules by visiting www.marshallcountyia.gov on the conservation department page or pick a set up at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. Winning photos will be announced at the photo contest awards and chili supper from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Feb. 18 at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center.


With spring thaw not far off, the Marshall County Conservation Board is gearing up for another season of harvesting sap from Sugar Maple trees to evaporate and produce a fresh batch of maple syrup. Tickets are now available for the Trees to Table Maple Syrup pancake breakfast on March 28. Tickets include three pancakes, two sausage links, locally harvested maple syrup and a beverage. Tickets can be purchased at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center, Board of Supervisors office at great Western Bank or Chamber of Commerce office at the Fisher Community Center. Excess syrup produced will be bottled and available for sale at the pancake breakfast. Proceeds will be used for park improvements.


This week’s guest writer is Mike Stegmann, who has been with the Marshall County Conservation Board for 27 years and MCCB Director for 16 years.


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