NEBRASKAland

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NEBRASKAland Magazine is dedicated to outstanding photography and informative writing with an engaging mix of articles and photos highlighting Nebraska’s outdoor activities, parklands, wildlife, history and people.

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JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017 • NEBRASKAland 69 A s we busted through the thick cattails and bulrushes along a private Sandhills lake, we were instantly surprised as the family group of trumpeter swans was right in front of us. The surprise appeared mutual, as the swans hesitated for a moment – I'm sure wondering just where the heck the big airboat had come from – and then swiftly scattered in different directions. We swung the boat around, and went after one of the adults. He managed to juke us once, but on the second pass I managed to swing the dip net over his head and pull him in the boat. The capture of this trumpeter swan was part of a Nebraska Game and Parks Commission project examining swan movements from breeding areas in the Nebraska Sandhills to wintering areas there and in other parts of the state, and the places they stop in between. Additionally, little is known about fidelity to wintering and breeding sites. Information obtained from the study will assist managers in conserving habitat for trumpeter swans, a tier-one species in the Nebraska Natural Legacy Project. The project began in July 2014 when three adult female swans were captured and fitted with neck collars equipped with solar-powered Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitters. The project has continued with an additional 23 swans being captured and fitted with the special neck collars. The GPS collars allow for accurate locations of swans as they move about on their often remote habitats Initial indications are that the movement of swans depends on whether the swans have had young during the breeding season or are non- breeders. Non-breeders appear to move more and farther than breeding swans. The most significant movement was a non-breeding swan that wintered near the Kansas-Oklahoma border near the town of Buffalo in northwestern Oklahoma in 2015, 400 miles from where it was captured. Collared swans wintered on a number of different rivers and creeks in Nebraska. Swans wintered on the Snake, South, Middle, and North Loups, North and central Platte, Calamus, and Dismal rivers. Swans also used Boardman, Blue, Brush, Goose, Gordon, Gracie, James, and Whitehorse creeks and Calamus Reservoir. The females returned to their respective breeding wetlands in early February and resided on or near those sites through April. ■ Mark is the Waterfowl Program Manager with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. Movement of Trumpeter Swans in the Sandhills Commission researchers use GPS to follow an at-risk species. By Mark Vrtiska, Ph.D., Waterfowl Program Manager Conservation Corner The Commission's swan study was funded by the Wildlife Conservation Fund, the agency's primary money source for nongame and at-risk species inventory, research and management projects. The Conservation Fund is supported primarily through donations. You can learn more about the fund or make a tax-deductible gift at Nebraskawildlifefund.org. Donations can also be made through the nongame "checkoff" box locate d on state income tax forms. PHOTOS BY ERIC FOWLER How You Can Help Above, left to right: Mark Vrtiska, Heather Johnson, and Zac Brashears band trumpeter swans in the Sandhills. Below: A GPS neck collar is fitted to a swan.

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