By: Leigh Edwards
Date: December 24, 1999
Picture a swan and you might see a graceful but fragile white bird. In fact, Trumpeter Swans are amazingly hardy birds (and the largest in North America) who fiercely defend their young, withstand some of our harshest weather, and fly hundreds of miles for food.
Tchaikovsky revered the swan, so much he composed the music for the Swan Lake ballet. Whistler has its own Swan Lake – with Trumpeter Swans now feeding at the north end of Alta Lake.
These beautiful birds are on the endangered species list due to habitat loss, hunting, poaching, and pollution. We are fortunate here in Whistler to retain much of the natural habitat swans rely on, such as marshes, lakes, and rivers with dense vegetation. As a result, swans choose Whistler as a stopover during their fall migration to warmer lakes in Washington State and southeast BC. In the spring, they return to breed as far north as Alaska. An interesting book about the attempt to save these marvellous birds from extinction is Ralph Edwards’ “Lonesome Lake.”
A good spot for viewing the swans is from the viewing platform on the Valley Trail between Rainbow Park and the bottom of Lorimer Road. Remember, as with all wild creatures, please give them lots of room and respect (including keeping dogs on leashes!).