Swan song

Once almost extinct, trumpeter swans are growing in number. For Hamilton County Conservation, the restoration of the bird is an example of how communities can work together to benefit wildlife.

John Laird, naturalist and park ranger with Hamilton County Conservation, said the trumpeter swan was overhunted when European settlers came to the midwest. The large bird made a large target for hunters, according to Laird, who said the trumpeter swan faced extinction.

In 1995, the first breeding pair of trumpeter swans was placed at Beemer’s Pond near Webster City. Laird said the restoration project was a joint effort with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Hamilton County Conservation Board and private individuals. Bill Beemer supplied the property for the swans. Laird said the Samson family gave $100,000 to jumpstart the program.

“If it wasn’t for the generosity of those people, the project wouldn’t have got off the ground,” Laird said.

Now, the trumpeter swans and other birds are spending part of their winter a Beemer’s Pond. Laird said the aerated area provides open water with remnants of corn in nearby fields for them to eat. Since the restoration project began, swans have been tagged so they can be tracked. Some of the swans feature red or green neck bands to identify them as they wander through the midwest. Laird said the swans have been reported in 15 states and two Canadian providences.

For Laird, the project shows how Conservation and community and state partners can work together to have a positive impact on the environment. Laird will share more about the history of the project and give the public a chance to visit the pond this Saturday. At 1 p.m., Laird will give a presentation on the trumpeter swans at the Conservation Office located at Briggs Woods Park. After the presentation, at about 2 p.m., Laird and visitors will travel out to the pond to observe the trumpeter swans.

Laird encourages those who attend to bring warm clothes and a camera or binoculars for observation. Donations are welcome to help pay for corn to feed the swans. For more information, contact Hamilton County Conservation at 832-9570.