Spring in a rush of wings

Celebration of Swans is back!

Bird lovers rejoice! After an unprecedented hiatus, Celebration of Swans returns this year to Swan Haven at Marsh Lake, with events, activities and avian fun, with some new COVID-19 safety measures in place.

The annual event, which marks the return of tens of thousands of migratory waterfowl, such as Arctic and trumpeter swans, along with a variety of duck species, was cancelled last year due to the outbreak of the pandemic. The birds gather in the open waters of Marsh Lake to feed and rest after the long journey from their southern habitats before dispersing to their northern breeding grounds for the summer, where they remain until late August. For many Yukoners, the return of the swans over the month of April is the first true sign that the long bitter winter is over and spring is just around the corner.
This year’s festival will “definitely be a little bit different,” says Olivia Masters, a wildlife viewing technician with Yukon’s Department of Environment. In order to comply with social distancing protocols, there will be a maximum of 10 people at a time in the centre, masks will be mandatory indoors and there will be a portable sink placed at the entrance, so people can wash their hands.

In-person events are going ahead, but in order to make sure they aren’t over capacity, you’ll need to register online, says Masters. Events include, but are not limited to, guided walks, hikes, educational talks, and beading, birding, painting, and bird-and-bat house building workshops. Each event will open a week ahead of time for registration, but if the event you’re looking to attend is booked up, there’s a waitlist folks can be added to. If they find popular events book quickly, more times may be added to the schedule to accommodate demand, Masters says.

Folks are, as always, welcome to come and view the birds (respectfully, from a distance) on the lake outside of the interpretative centre whenever it works best for them, says Masters. Picnic tables will be open for people who would like to pack a lunch and then take a stroll down to the lake for closer viewing, although people should remember there is no garbage disposal onsite and Swan Haven is pack-in-pack-out. Viewers should also bring their own binoculars or scopes this year, as COVID-19 restrictions mean the centre can’t lend out these tools.

Although the birds come and go on their own timetable, the best weeks to view the birds are usually the second and third weeks of April, when their numbers tend to peak. Last year the migration topped on April 21, with around 1,000 swans counted on the lake.
“Please come out and enjoy the birds!” says Masters.

Celebration of Swans runs April 1 to 30. The Swan Haven Interpretive Centre is open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and holidays. To see a timetable of events or book space in an event, please visit whatsupyukon.com/event/swan-haven-guided-walks/.

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