Celebrating the Return of the Swans

Thinking spring? Think birds. A great way to do both is at the popular Celebration of Swans festival getting underway this weekend.

Swan viewing, talks, games and story telling – complete with bannock – are planned for the festival, which runs from April 13-21 this year.

“It’s a great time to just come out and have fun, enjoy the views, and learn a bit about spring migration and these amazing birds,” says Carrie McClelland, a wildlife viewing biologist with Environment Yukon, which runs the program.

A family activity night on swan-themes en francais are being offered at the Café Rencontre event April 12 at the Association franco-yukonnaise in Whitehorse.

The Swan Haven Interpretation Centre is hosting many events in the coming weeks, including activities for children and an evening of music for adults. They are located at M’Clintock Bay on Marsh Lake, approximately 40 kilometres south of Whitehorse. The log building is easy to find with well-marked signage.

The shallow, open water at M’Clintock Bay serves as an essential pit stop for swans and ducks migrating to northern nest sites. Trumpeter swans, North America’s largest waterfowl with a 2.3 metre wingspan, are the main attraction here, recognized by their distinct trumpet-like call. Thousands of trumpeters stop to rest in the bay, joined by large flocks of smaller Tundra swans. The underwater vegetation helps nourish these hungry dabblers feeding with their heads down and bums-in-the-air. Fox, coyotes, eagles and even bear are sometimes seen on the far shore.

There are scopes and binoculars available at Swan Haven, including a specialized one for wheel-chair users. On-site interpreters can help point out special features and behaviours. Jukka Jantunen will be giving a talk on tips for viewing the swans on Friday, April 14 at 11 a.m. to noon.

On Saturday, April 13 take a drive out to the Tagish River Bridge Day Use Area, which is about an hour’s drive from Whitehorse, to enjoy a noon storytelling event with Carcross/Tagish First Nation elder Ida Calmegane.

“Ida makes the most wonderful bannock, so just bring a camp chair, a blanket and a mug for some tea,” McClelland says.

Musicians and music fans are invited to a coffee house on Saturday night between 8-10 p.m.

A bird banding talk is scheduled for Sunday, April 14 at 3:30 p.m., and later that evening between 8 and 9 p.m. a sunset spiritual celebration is scheduled.

The popular Seniors Tea is on Wednesday, April 17 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Swan Haven, with fancy teacups and sweets arranged by the Marsh Lake Community Centre (call 660-4999).

Environment Canada Swan Biologist Jim Hawkings is giving a talk in Carcross near the railway bridge on the subject of migration on Thursday, April 18 at 6:30 p.m., with refreshments, and crafts and storytelling for kids.

Back at Swan Haven, the weekend of April 20 and 21 will see a family-oriented program including crafts, scavenger hunts, hands-on activities to learn about birds and a snack shack hosted by the Girl Guides.

Swan Haven is open to the public all month, from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays and from noon to 7 p.m. on weekends and holidays.

For more information go to the Environment Yukon’s Celebration of Swans website. It has lots of resources, and you can even click on a link to hear the classic swan trumpet. Yukon Energy’s Swan-Cam should also be up and running, if you can’t make it out of town to see this amazing spectacle of spring.

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