Dreaming of Tundra Swans & Winter

Landing Tundra SwansLanding Tundra Swans – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2500, ISO 640, +1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

We are having another heat wave here in northern Utah with temps hovering at or going above 100°F and our air quality is awful so I think about cooler days and winter birds at times to mentally “cool down”.

Some Tundra Swans migrate from the arctic tundra using the Great Basin hub of the Pacific flyway and huge flocks of them spend the winter here at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and Farmington Bay WMA while others migrate to the eastern and western coasts. Their calls ring out in the cooler air and they can be heard from long distances whether they are flying overhead, on the ground or on the water. When I think of Tundra Swans I think of ice, snow, cold air and the sound of thousands of them in the marshes.

People also call this species Whistling Swan or Whistlers because of the whistling sound their wings make in flight and their whistling calls. I hope to record the calls of thousands of these birds this winter because none of the recordings I have found so far really capture what I hear in the winter here.

I took the photo above at Bear River Migratory Bird refuge in March of this year not long before the swans started on their migration to the arctic tundra to breed, nest and rear their young. Two of the birds flew in to land in the frigid water among the others who were feeding. In the interest of full disclosure I did remove a partial swan body from the left side of the frame that I found distracting during post processing.

These large white birds will always make me think of colder days even when I view them on the hottest days of summer.

Life is good.



  1. Elephants Child August 3, 2017 at 3:38 pm

    I hope you get some cool relief soon.

  2. April Olson August 3, 2017 at 12:04 pm

    One of my favorite sounds. I sit on the dikes for hours in Farmington when they are here just to listen. I hope you do capture the sound one day.

  3. Patty Chadwick August 3, 2017 at 9:21 am

    Beautiful big birds! That snowy white and those black bills and feet. I’m hoping you do manage to get a good recording if the sound they make as I have never heard it but wanted to…

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