Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Trumpeter Drama in Washtenaw County

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I did a quick stop and go for a Marsh Wren, my first in Washtenaw County? In my post I included a picture of a trumpeter swan, mostly because it was very close from the road and thus allowed me a decent picture without much effort?

Well, last week was very emotional among the county birders and nature lovers, as 3 of the 4 swans (2 adults, one juvenile) were found dead close from the road :

"Bad news. A woman just called Washtenaw Audubon with the news that two of the Trumpeter Swans living in the Scio Church road/ Parker Road have been killed. (Washtenaw Cty) They found the mother swan and a baby dead, the mother has a bullet hole in her head. The father and other baby are nowhere to be seen. There are white feathers strewn up and down the road in both directions. They were lured there with a pile of corn. They will notify the UD Fish and Wildlife Service and the Sherriff's Dept.Sherri Smith7:30 Saturday morning"

Bullets? lured by a pile of corn?

In the following days non less than 83 emails were posted. A $1000 dollars reward was posted by the Washtenaw Audubon Society to find the responsible of the crime. Some people suggested an "analysis of the broken bones to determine the speed of the car that might have been responsible of the accident". When people suggested that maybe, 60+ emails was more than enough for the story, they were not too subtly advised to mind their business.....

Eventually, it turned out the swans were killed by a car. At the end of the day, my favorite comment was made by Jim McDonald :

"All the speculation about this incident was disturbing. Bullet wounds, strangling, a psycho killer with a crowbar -- all just made up. Dave Sing made an effort at suggesting that people not rush to judgement. He probably also suspected that a car caused this. I'm sure this isn't the first time he's been called a voice in the wilderness. What happened was that a driver swerved and slaughtered a family of swans. If he had stopped and called the police, how would the result have been better? How will making the driver's name public improve the situation? If the police want to investigate further, fine. I don't think there is a way to determine the speed of the car by how the bones were broken -- as has been suggested -- but if there is, I would hope that technology and the manpower needed to use it would be saved for use on the bodies of human children that are killed by vehicles. Because even though the driver who hit the swans was responsible, the truth is that this was bound to happen. Trumpeter Swans shouldn't have to raise their young on the shoulder of a busy road. They shouldn't have to compete with automobiles for space".

As you might judge on the following picture, taken only 2 weeks before the crash, the Swan were really spending most of their time on the shoulder of the road. I think it is sad, but not too surprising they eventually got hit by a car.

Trumpeter Swan Nest, 2 weeks before the crash


Mel said...

Wow, it seems like it was about to happen...
It is sad that humans sometimes use the surroundings as we please and then blame it on the species that were there beafore us.
I don't know the story of how these swans got there in the first place, but I've read way too many stories over here and depredation in our Amazon.

Jochen said...

Laurent - as sorry as I felt for the swans, I also thought the reactions on "" were often a bit too extreme, especially as there was no hard data to support any claim at the beginning (car accident, shooting, meteor impact, remnant population of saber-toothed tiger, etc.).

After reading two or three emails to learn about what was going on, I simply deleted them by subject alone without ever opening them.
In defense of those who kept on discussing, this was indeed an "allowed" topic for birders and making up rules about the maximum number of emails per subject is of course impossible and not something one would want to see on birders.
I often find myself quickly deleting 75% of my daily emails by subject alone (I am a member of 4 forums and regularly get 30 emails or more a day, during spring migration sometimes even more than 100) and really think this is a very practical solution. So basically, even though it did make me wonder as well if all this discussing and speculating was really going anywhere, I didn't find it that much of a nuisance. If someone's not interested, just delete, one click, and it's off the radar if you want it to be off.
Anyway, so much about the 83 emails on birders.
I do certainly feel very sorry for the swans. However, as you and others have mentioned, this was bound to happen. Indeed, I often wondered why on earth Trumpeters were (re-?)established around Ann Arbor, of all the places. I remember Mike Sefton driving around small, and I mean really small, ponds bordered by well-kept lawns in the middle of a built-up residential area of AA with me as he wanted to show me the Trumpeters. Even though they are a native species, I always "felt" the same seeing them or the domestic manky mallards and mute swans in Gallup Park. They were much better off on the UP.
Cheers, Laurent, and all the best to Diane and the baby,

Laurent said...

I actually only receive the daily report from, so I don't have to delete anything at all. I also check those on surfbird so I don't miss anything urgent...just in case something really good shows up.....

Mel : thanks for your comment. Obviously Peru is a dream destination for's on my bucket list, but maybe I should not wait too long....