Sylvie Binette probably has the easiest job at the Department of Natural Resources. As a wildlife viewing technician, it is her job to make the public aware of swan habitat and why it is important to preserve it. It’s an easy job because Swan Haven, on Marsh Lake’s M’Clintock Bay, offers a marvellous view of these majestic birds that visit the Yukon once a year. Spotting scopes are lined up and Jukka Jantunen – “An amazing ornithologist,” says Binette – is there daily to answer questions while he charts the numbers of swans. In fact, Binette’s job is probably easier than any over at the Department of Tourism because it is easy to convince her “tourists” to stop: “This area is rich in nutrients because of the sediment,” she says.
“The water is shallow there so swans and other migratory birds can feed on invertebrates and vegetation from the bottom.” On their long journey from the Vancouver-Washington areas and the Western Coast to the Old Crow Flats and points further north, the swans find that M’Clintock Bay is the first suitable body of water that opens up. But it is difficult to convince them to spend another day when she doesn’t know how long they are staying now. But, this year, there are collar programs that are operational and will allow this data to be collected for the first time. This is the kind of information that makes visits to Swan Haven so fulfilling. It is a real, educational experience. There is an interpreter that works exclusively with the busloads of Grade 2 to 6 students that come out each year.
And Swan Haven, the building itself, is a natural museum. Swan Haven opened April 2 and
will close May 1. But the Celebration of Swans is when things get exciting. There will be workshops on watercolour landscapes, photography, water bird identification and a film. At the Boiler Room, there will be an open stage devoted to the returning swans. Definitely Not Your Swan Song will be April 19 at 7:30 p.m. And there will be a Spring Birding Bus Tour and a campfire with Tagish First Nation elder Ida Calmegane on April 22 at the Tagish River Bridge Day Use Area. “For many people it is a ritual, something they do every year,” says Binette. “I am fortunate to be part of that ritual.”