Waiting For The Impending Arrival of Tundra Swans in Northern Utah

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Four Tundra Swans in flightFour Tundra Swans in flight Nikon D810, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Last year I saw my first of the season Tundra Swans on October 23rd and I have started wondering when they will show up at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge this year because the 23rd is now only 5 days away. This morning I checked eBird and saw that no one has reported seeing them here in Utah yet this fall. Will they be later this year than last? I really don’t know but I am anxiously looking forward to their arrival.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge hosts up to 13,000 Tundra Swans during November through December where they utilize the freshwater wetland habitats on the refuge. I hope that this winter I will spend more time photographing these beautiful swans  because I don’t have nearly enough images of them in my portfolio and I will also attempt to create a video or two of them while they overwinter in Utah. The last video I recorded of them on my cell phone was shaky and the swans were quite a distance from me. Their beauty might be just enough to inspire me to learn to use my Nikon D500 to take video of them.

I think the sound of thousands and thousands of Tundra Swans is wonderful. Last year in early November I remember sitting in the cold with my window down listening to them from a distance and thinking about their long journey from the Arctic tundra to northern Utah and the amazing scenery they fly over on their way here.  Tundra Swans migrate in family groups and the young they have stay with them throughout their first fall and winter.

In northern Utah I see and photograph Tundra Swans at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area and Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. They are also found at other freshwater areas in Utah and on occasion I have also seen them next to the causeway to Antelope Island State Park, floating in the Great Salt Lake and flying over the marshy areas surrounding it.

I wonder when I will see Tundra Swans on the wing for the first time this fall. Soon I hope!

Life is good.



  1. Carolyn Boyles October 18, 2016 at 11:43 pm

    I just this week returned from Alaska, driving south through Canada to California. I saw Tundra Swans in the bays near Seward and later, migrating through Canada, in the Yukon and Northern B.C. Beautiful. I wondered where they over-wintered. Thanks for the info, and the absolutely wonderful photos.

  2. Utahbooklover October 18, 2016 at 6:46 pm

    Like Tim, I really enjoy your writing. The image reminds me of a flight formation of the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels.

  3. Elephant's Child October 18, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    My sick sad mind has a new earworm, and is chanting ‘why are we waiting’ at the moment.
    I hope your wait stops soon. And the earworm stops sooner.

  4. Linda Laugen October 18, 2016 at 11:26 am

    OOOOPS – I was wrong about the song. It is about snow geese and cranes – not swans – flying up out of a Nebraska farm field: “Field of Wings” by Malcolm Dalglish. http://www.oooliticmusic.com Oh well – cranes and geese are birds, anyway. Sorry for any inconvenience – the song is lovely joy and accurate vocal images of lovely nature!

  5. Patty Chadwick October 18, 2016 at 10:01 am

    These magnificent birds almost look choreographed….Beautiful image!

  6. Marie Read October 18, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Nice composition…and I like the subtle hint of mountains in the background.

  7. Linda Laugen October 18, 2016 at 7:08 am

    OOoooh – did these dapper guys line up for their portrait? It’s fabulous! Thank you for sharing it!

    So is Utah “south” for this species??

    There is a song which I have heard youth choirs perform – about someone seeing and hearing a field full of swans – it has hand motions that look for all the world like a flock (a bunch? a group?) of swans taking off, and there are alternating vocal phrases, one on top of another, which perfectly reproduce the chatter these groups of birds produce when they are together! I wish I had more info on this piece – try to find and hear it if you can! It’s an amazing composition and performance.

  8. Liz Cormack October 18, 2016 at 6:43 am

    We are also awaiting the arrival of the Tundra Swans on the Niagara River but ours don’t show up until mid to late November & definitely not in the numbers that you have in Utah. I love hearing their calls.

  9. Bob McPherson October 18, 2016 at 6:31 am

    Beautiful photo Mia of these beautiful birds.

  10. pennypinchadventure Tim Traver October 18, 2016 at 6:19 am

    I hope you will publish a book of writings and photos from Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge. A year in the life of….

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