Friday, February 8, 2013

Trumpeter Swans

I discovered eight trumpeter swans swimming in the Bear River near Georgetown, Idaho.
These magnificent birds are, on average, the largest waterfowl species on earth, and the heaviest bird in North America. The largest known male weighed 38 pounds (17.2 kilograms) and had a wingspan of 10 feet (3.1 meters).
They drifted downstream to get further away from me, but after I moved my truck closer a couple of times they finally settled down and ignored me. They kept ducking their heads under water and splashing a lot of water around, either bathing or seeking vegetation for food.  Occasionally, one would stand up, stretch its wings forward, then back, to fold them.
One by one they climbed out of the water, spreading their wings for balance like this juvenile.  The younger swans still had some grayish plumage but were showing a lot of the white feathers they would have as adults.
Once they were ashore, they sometimes enjoyed a leisurely stretch.

These swans were rare here until recently, but have made a good comeback thanks to nesting at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Rocky Mountain Elk

Nearly every winter Linda and I drive to the Elk feeding grounds in Alpine, Star Valley, Wyoming.  Rocky Mountain elk live in the high country during the summer and descend to lower valleys every winter.  People have taken over most of the elk wintering areas there, so if they are to survive, they need supplemental feeding.  However, there are still areas near our home in the Bear Lake Valley where elk survive on their own.

A big bull and a few cows were part of a big herd waiting to be fed in Alpine, Wyoming.
The elk were fed hay from a horse-drawn sleigh.
After the sleigh left, the elk herd was on the move.  This was probably about 1/3 of the herd which stretched off to the left.  When spring arrives, the herd will scatter throughout the mountains again.