Swan Haven adapts activities to pandemic

Swans seen at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake on April 18. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)Swans seen at Swan Haven on Marsh Lake on April 18. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
A Trumpeter swan on the Tagish River on April 18. (Mike Thomas/Submitted)
A Trumpeter swan on the Tagish River on April 18. (Mike Thomas/Submitted)

A near-record-breaking month at Swan Haven has delighted kids and adults this spring as festivities adapted to COVID-19.

“It definitely changed programming, but in a good way, because last year COVID shut everything down. Whereas this year, we were allowed to open,” said wildlife viewing technician Olivia Masters.

Masters said the biggest changes this year were requiring participants to register online for events, including birding walks, banding demonstrations, craft projects, kids activities and a hike up Brownie Mountain.

Health and Social Services even made a special COVID-19 poster, demonstrating social distancing with an illustration of a tundra swan.

The pandemic did not slow down the swans arriving at Marsh Lake either.

This year was almost a record-breaker — the second time that over 3,000 swans have been counted overnight at Marsh Lake. This year the peak day was April 13, with 3,036 swans. The all-time record is 3,076 swans that overnighted on April 13 in 2019.

“I think the reaction of the swans this year has been really great because the weather has been absolutely gorgeous. So it’s been these warm spring days, going for beautiful walks out on the ice, and lots and lots of swans,” Masters said.

“There’s other years where it’s been much colder and blowing snow where it just doesn’t have that same feel,” she said.

Two species visit Swan Lake during the month of April. Both look similar, but have different behaviours and migration patterns.

The tundra swan — also known as the whistling swan — is a large white bird that travels to the far north to nest and have young along the far northern coast of Alaska, Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Hudson’s Bay.

The trumpeter swan is also a large white bird and can be hard to tell apart for an untrained eye. Like its name suggests, this swan has more of a noisy “trumpeting” call. Unlike the tundra swan, this species travels north but breeds in the interior of the Yukon, British Columbia and Alaska.

Both species travel to Marsh Lake on their migration pattern in order to rest and feed on the open water in April.

“For both the trumpeter and the tundra swans we’ve seen really good numbers for both. They both seem to be doing very well. The tundra swans tend to peak later in the month, whereas the trumpeters are earlier in the month,” Masters said.

One of the most popular events this year — with registration selling out in an hour — was a beading lesson from Copper Caribou duo Delaney Prysnuk and Montana Prysnuk. The beaders guided crafters in the creation of a swan keychain.

Festivities will wrap up on May 15, with a dagay (swan) walk in Kluane with elder Mary Jane Johnson from Kluane First Nation.

The final weekend festivities at Swan Haven will take place this week, with a hike on April 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., a shorebird walk from 10 a.m to 11:30 a.m. on May 1 and a watercolour landscape workshop on May 2 from 1 to 3 p.m.

“I love the swans because it’s just such a sign of spring. I grew up in Whitehorse and hearing that honking in the sky and then seeing all the birds is just such an indicator that winter is truly over,” said Masters. “Spring is coming. I think anybody who lives in the Yukon should get out there and celebrate the end of winter. And what better way to do that than to go out and see some beautiful birds?”

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Birdwatching

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off on May 7.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Yukon Budget 2.0

If the banks that finance the Yukon’s growing debt were the only… Continue reading

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Polarity Brewing is giving people extra incentive to get their COVID vaccine by offering a ‘free beer’ within 24 hours of their first shot. John Tonin/Yukon News
Polarity Brewing giving out ‘free’ beer with first COVID vaccination

Within 24 hours of receiving your first COVID-19 vaccine, Polarity Brewing will give you a beer.

Most Read