Our 2022 Swan Count Photo Contest Winner: Trumpeter Swan Pair with Cackling Goose | Val Viers

The 2022 Annual Wintering Swan One-day Count, a January tradition that SJPT has been coordinating in the San Juans for several decades, dawned mild—and foggy. As swan counter David Duggins put it, “I wouldn’t have found a swan if I was stepping on it.” While it is indeed true that trying to find white birds against a white backdrop presents challenges, 33 volunteers on 6 different islands made the best of it, and after waiting for the fog to clear, began their count.

This year, 65 Trumpeter swans were counted (all adults, except for 3 juveniles). This is the third year in a row we have seen a drop in the winter count. We cannot speculate at this point why this is happening (remember that counts such as this serve as an index, not an absolute count of the population). However, it is a trend we will be monitoring with our partners at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The good news is that in a five-county region in western Washington, the overall Trumpeter and Tundra swan count has been increasing. (They’re hard to miss if you are driving through the Skagit Valley in the wintertime!) We should have those regional numbers from WDFW soon, and will include them as an addendum to this post.

Not long after the swan count concluded, Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center reported admitting a sick juvenile Tundra swan that was found on Orcas Island. This young bird was stabilized and then moved to another facility in Whatcom County to be with other swans until it can be released. This is an interesting development, as we do not typically see Tundra swans here in the islands. And, as swans are long-lived birds with a strong fidelity to their wintering areas, the swans we see each year could very well be the same individuals that we’ve counted multiple times before. Swans are known for “adopting” orphaned juveniles. Could this youngster perhaps have been orphaned, and followed a Trumpeter family to the islands?

Snow geese graze with Canada cousins | Val Veirs

Another fun find was a small flock of snow geese that our prize-winning photographer, Val Veirs, captured on San Juan Island hanging out with Canada geese (see photo). These birds are numerous in the Skagit Valley as well, but we don’t often see them here in the islands.

Have a swan comment or question? Feel free to email Kathleen Foley Lewis at kathleen@sjpt.org

See previous years’ results: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018

Sign up here to volunteer for the 2023 Swan Count!

Read more about Trumpeter Swans on WDFW’s info page.