A huge flock of 200 swans that have been grazing in a field on Evans Road have been turning heads and drawing comments for the past few weeks in Chilliwack.
Although they’re a new sight for many, says Wild Birds Unlimited store owner Cliff Jury, it’s actually common for them to winter in the Sumas flats, Chilliwack and Agassiz.
Gord Gadsden of fraservalleybirding.com agrees.
“We probably get the most of the wintering swans here in our area,” he says.
Both of the birders figure the reason people are noticing them more this year than previous years is the simple fact that more people travel along Evans Road than Chilliwack’s country roads.
“They are here later than usual due to the cooler weather we had in February and March,” Jury adds.
They’re mostly trumpeter swans, but there are always some tundra swans mixed in with them, he says. The juvenile swans are grey in colour.
Gadsden drives by the field every day on his way to work. He noticed a day or two ago that the birds were gone. There was a tractor laying manure in the field which is probably what scared them off, he says.
During the day, the swans squish though the mud honking at nearby people and grazing on grass and other food. What they really love are the roots left behind in potato fields.
Then in the evening, they leave the dining fields and check in at the gravel bars on the Fraser River where it’s safe for them to sleep. In the morning, they return to the fields.
Their “numbers are stable” says Jury, adding that when the annual Christmas Bird Count was conducted there were about 1,000 swans in the area.
The trumpeters spend their summers way up north in the territories. When lakes begin to freeze around October, they move south, travelling about as far as Mount Vernon in Washington State. At the end of winter, they do a U-turn and head back up north.