Swans on the Little Miami

On a short walk along the Little Miami River yesterday, I was surprised to encounter five swans, mingling with a flock of Canada geese; the birds were just upstream from the Loveland bridge in northeast Metro Cincinnati.  Unfortunately, since the walk was spontaneous, I did not have my binoculars and could not accurately identify their species.

Given their facial silhouette and dark bills, they did not appear to be mute swans, an invasive species that is now common in wetlands across northern Ohio; the fact that mute swans are relatively nonmigratory and tend to be aggressive further supported that conclusion.  They might have been trumpeter swans, natives of North America that were extirpated from Ohio during the 19th Century and have been reintroduced since 1996; however, those large, vocal swans have not been migrating to southwestern Ohio.

That left me with the assumption that the visitors were tundra swans (formerly known as whistling swans), which breed on the Arctic tundra and winter along the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts; indeed, large flocks of migrant tundra swans are observed in the Lake Erie marshlands of northwest Ohio as the birds travel to and from the mid Atlantic Coast.  Smaller flocks are less commonly sighted throughout the State and, since ponds and lakes are frozen throughout the region, this small group may have set down on the Little Miami to rest and feed.  Regardless of their species, the swans were a pleasant and unexpected discovery.