Winter in Northwest Washington is home to large variety of birds. In fact, birdwatching is at its best here during the winter months when these feathered friends frequent our waterways and fields. One of the many species that come here to winter is the largest waterfowl of them all, the trumpeter swans. They arrive by the thousands to take over the farm rich fields of the Skagit Valley where they feast and rest until time to return to Alaska for the summer.
Last winter, nearly 12,000 of these majestic birds landed in Skagit Valley. Their population, once threatened nearly out of existence, have rebounded, according to the Skagit Audubon Society. In fact, the trumpeter swans who spend their winter in this area make up the largest winter population in the country. I decided the other day to take the a drive down the winding Chuckanut Drive that hugs the coast south to the beautiful open flat expanse of Skagit Valley, about 19 miles.
Once you hit the flat land, heading into the little junction of Bow, Washington, you begin to see spots of white dotting the barren, brown fields. On this particular day, I continued straight out from Bow following Chuckanut Drive or Highway 11. I hadn’t gone far when I came across a fields full of the swans. Turning off Chuckanut, I found I could closer to the birds in one of the fields on Thomas Road. The birds are protected from harassment so the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife ask birdwatchers to stay in their cars when visiting or photographing if possible. My husband pulled the car off to the side of the road, I rolled down the and pulled out camera.
The birds stopped splashing in the muddy water standing in the field to check us out but after a few minutes decided we were no threat and resumed their chorus of honking. The swans seemed not to mind as I started to photograph. The birds honked. My camera’s shutter clicked open and closed as I patiently tried to maneuver from my seat in the car to capture a few images of the big birds. Mallard ducks mixed in freely with the swans, as they waddled around the fallow fields. But it’s the swans that attract everyone’s eye.
In flight, against the day’s gray-white sky the birds outstretched wings looked immense and . In fact, these wingspan of the swans is enormous and can be up to eight feet wide, according to Department of Fish and Wildlife sources. They can weigh as much as 32 pounds and when standing erect will reach four feet tall. Big birds.
After a while, satisfied that I might have a few images I would later like, we moved on. The swans were content to remain in the field, honking to their hearts’ desire as the light cold wind that had picked up ruffled their big snowy white wings. There’s still time to view the swans if you find yourself in the area. Eventually, these magnificent birds will take off for the spring and summer, not to return again until next November.