Tundra swans make their annual return to Lambton Shores

Tundra swans are shown in this file photo flying over Greenway Road in Lambton Shores. The nearby Lambton Heritage Museum is holding its annual Return of the Swans activities to celebrate the annual stop by thousands of the birds on their migration to the Canadian Arctic. Handout Paul Morden / Paul Morden/The Observer

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The swans have returned to farm fields near the Lambton Heritage Museum.

The Return of the Swans is an annual mark of the coming spring at the museum that sits across from Pinery Park on Highway 21 in Lambton Shores.

Each year, thousands of tundra swans stop in the fields to rest and feast on grain left from the harvest as part of their 6,000 kilometres northern migration.

Their visit draws scores of curious humans who park along Greenway Road to watch, and photograph, the swans.

Large numbers of the swans were spotted on March 5 for the first time this year, said Colleen Inglis, education program co-ordinator with the museum.

“Around about the time of March Break is fairly normal,” she said. “They’re a little earlier than last year.”

Museum staff check the fields each day and post a swan report on the website, returnoftheswans.com, to update the public on the number of birds and where they are.

“There have been thousands the last few days – more than I think there were last year,” Inglis said.

The farm fields near the museum were once part of a large wetland separated from Lake Huron by sand dunes. The wetlands included Lake Smith, which was fed by springs and overflow from the Ausable River.

The northern part of Lake Smith was named Goosemarsh because of the large number of waterfowl that stopped there on their annual migration.

Along with geese and ducks, the site attracts tundra swans that winter on Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. and fly north again in late winter to reach their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic

Visitors drawn to Lambton Shores by the swans each year are encouraged to stop in at the Lambton Heritage Museum which offers a display about the swans and the migration, and family activities.

It’s open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Activities at the museum include the chance to make an origami swan, and try touch screens activities to learn how to estimate the size of the swan flock, plus swan trivia.

Inglis said there still thousands of swans in the fields Tuesday, even with the rain that was falling early in the day.

“It’s pretty wet, but that doesn’t seem to bother the birds too much,” she said.

There have also been good crowds of swan watchers this year, particularly on days when the weather’s nice, Inglis said.

Last year, the swans could be seen in the fields for about two weeks before they continued on their way north, she said.

“It’s really unpredictable,” Inglis added. “It depends on the weather and the availability of food.”

The museum is adding some additional activities next week for March Break, along with the Return of the Swans.

Children visiting the museum will be able to use gadgets from the Lambton County Library MakerSpace program, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays.

That includes using the MakerSpace button maker to make swan-themed buttons and magnets, and well as programming an Ozobot, pocket-sized robot.

“We’re hoping the swans will still be here, as well,” Inglis said.

Information about the museum and its programs can be found online at heritagemuseum.ca.

 

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