At 9:30 this morning, I watched the first tundra swans flying north over the hollow. I was walking on Black Gum Trail, which follows along Laurel Ridge about half-way between the road and the ridge crest, and had paused to watch a pileated woodpecker finding its breakfast in a dead limb of a nearby red oak. The pileated was hanging to the bottom of the limb, and I watched through the zoom lens of my camera as he tapped and fed, probably for carpenter ants. The swans were nearly silent and quite high up, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have noticed them if I hadn’t stopped. They were strung out in a line of about 25 birds, with only one bird following the leader on the other side to form a very lopsided “V.”
This too will be entered on the graph-paper version of our Spring Arrivals list, which has now been affixed to the refrigerator in my parents’ house. For many years, we recorded the date we first saw migrant Canada geese, instead, but stopped around 2002 because so many Canada geese had stopped migrating altogether — it became difficult to tell the migrants from flocks of local geese moving between local lakes and fields. That was a completely new phenomenon for our area; there were no year-round resident geese around here until sometime in the early- to mid-90s. To compensate, we began keeping records on swans, instead. Like Canada geese, tundra swans tend to fly over sometime between February 20 and March 15.