Swans trumpet N. Island’s winter weather

Artist Gordon Henschel recalls an encounter with vocal avians.

This winter we had a dash of sunshine for, what seemed like, an endless number of days. All you North Islanders remember that, don’t you? It was raining in Victoria at the time and we were, not so discretely, thumbing our noses at the Victorian “weather snobs”. (It’s funny how CBC Victoria never mentions when the sun shines up here if it’s raining down there!)

It was during one of these “diamond days” that I decided to investigate the Cluxewe estuary via Broughton Strait Resort and Campground. It turned out to be one of the most delightful days of the season.

I checked in with the people in the log house at the entrance. The First Nations people own and operate this first rate campground and they do a good job. In the winter, the road to the long spit that runs between the river and the ocean is kept closed to cut down on traffic and possible vandalism. No problem! With not a breeze stirring and the sun making you wish you had brought your sun glasses, the walk out there was pure pleasure.

I said, “Hi” to two couples returning from the spit, obviously enjoying their leisurely stroll. This estuary is a bird sanctuary and I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the trumpeter swans that winter here. As I walked westward along the estuary their calls drifted to me and I knew that I was not to be disappointed.

I spotted them as they sat high and dry on the grass on one of the knolls that separate the many branches of the river. From this vantage point they could easily see me but surprisingly held their ground. Obviously during their stay here they had become used to seeing humans; however their excited warnings belied their brevity.

I was doing little 5×7 pencil sketches as I moved toward them, each sketch bringing me closer. Had I brought a camera I may have moved forward more quickly but this way each sketching position got them more used to me. Eventually I was positioned on the very shore of the river, below its high banks and directly across from the flock. To my surprise, one of the largest, slid into the water and swam by within ten meters of me!

The painting shown here is a 5 x 7 watercolour I did immediately following the wonderful encounter. It was the icing on the delicious cake of a day.

 

Did you know the neck of a trumpeter swan is nearly twice as long as its body? I guess that’s why the trumpet is so loud!