What do you call a group of swans? A flock? a bevy? How about..."a legacy". That's exactly what we are fortunate to have in Ontario, thanks to a group of dedicated volunteers who have restored and monitored the Trumpeter Swan population over the past 3.5 decades.
If you've spent time down at the LaSalle Park waterfront in winter you may have had the pleasure of meeting one of those volunteers – Bev Kingdon, 'the friendly swan lady' – as she attends to her avian family of 100 - 200 swans that over-winter at the park each year.
A long-time Burlington resident, Bev has played an instrumental role in the Trumpeter Swan restoration project since the early 1980s, when retired MNR biologist Harry Lumsden began his mission to bring back these magnificent birds. (Trumpeters had been extirpated from Ontario by 1886. By 1935, only 69 Trumpeters were counted in all of North America, mainly as a result of hunting and habitat destruction.)
Bev and her husband Ray first got involved by offering to adopt and raise generations of Trumpeter Swans on their farm property in northern Ontario. In 1993, Bev then began helping with banding, tagging, monitoring, and promoting public awareness and protection of the swans...and continues to this day (most recently at the successful Family Day event at LaSalle Park, attended by about 1000 visitors).
The Trumpeter Swan recovery is one of those rare conservation success stories, with a now self-sustaining population in Ontario, upwards of 1000 birds. But, the journey hasn't been without its hurdles, with the most recent being the proposed marina expansion at LaSalle Park that could threaten the swans' winter habitat. The LaSalle waterfront is unique in that patches of water often remain unfrozen during winter, due to the regular wave action, allowing the swans a place to feed and spend the winter. If the permanent marina breakwater construction goes ahead, it could jeopardize the swans.
The marina expansion proposal is currently on pause, while the City of Burlington takes a deeper look at the business case for the estimated $14m project. (The City of Burlington is a joint venture partner with the LaSalle Park Marina Association.)
Liz Bennian has supported Bev and the swans by leading the Trumpeter Swan Coalition, which has been a strong advocate against the marina expansion. BurlingtonGreen has also delegated to City Council in opposition to the marina expansion that could put the swans at risk, and which we see as putting the needs of a small number of boaters above those of the swans and the general public which enjoys visiting them each winter. Though there is a temporary reprieve, we must remain vigilant until the City makes its final decision on the project.
The story of the Trumpeter Swan recovery is not just about the swans, but a testament to what a group of dedicated people can accomplish to preserve our natural world when they put their minds and energy (and some funds) toward it. At a time when we are frequently reminded of the growing rate of species loss around the globe due to human activity, the Trumpeters represent a positive and hopeful example that we can make a difference. And, we can balance our needs with those of other species and co-exist – if we make the right choices.
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” –Mahatma Gandhi
Thank you Bev, as well as Ray, Harry, Liz and all the members of the Ontario Trumpeter Swan Restoration Group. The Trumpeter Swans are indeed a legacy for current and future generations to enjoy. We are grateful and will continue to help fight for their protection.
More on the Trumpeter Swan recovery
- Toronto Star article, 2009: Trumpeter swans making a comeback in Ontario
- Hamilton Spectator article, 2010: "Burlington's Lady of Swan Lake"
- Trumpeter Swan Society article
Swan Trivia (impress your friends!)
- Trumpeter Swans are identified by their large size and all-black bill, plus the honking noise they make, hence their name. One to two hundred of them over-winter at Burlington's LaSalle Park waterfront from about December to March, before migrating north again to areas such as Wye Marsh near Midland, Kirkland Lake and the North Bay area.
- Mute Swans have orange bills (they are often seen on the Burlington waterfront as well, in small numbers year-round).
- A male adult swan is called a cob.
- A female adult is called a pen.
- A young swan is called a cygnet.
- "Cygnus" is Latin for swan, and is also a constellation in the northern sky. It is relatively easy to see and memorize, as it is large and one of the few constellations that resembles its namesake. A swan in flight. See if you can spot it along the Milky Way.)
- Trumpeter Swans are very sensitive to lead. Ingesting lead from such things as fishing sinkers often results in their death (another reason to use non-lead based sinkers if fishing).